Joan Jett & the Blackhearts have been basically mining the same field for over 30 years now. And, as the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Crunching guitars, pounding drums and attitude abound on ‘Unvarnished,’ the band’s first new album in over seven years.
The album opener, ‘Any Weather,’ is a very power popish number, with Joan delivering a heartfelt lyric over a highly catchy tune, but it’s with the second track, ‘TMI,’ where Joan kicks into high gear. The song carries the trademark stomp of classic glam rock ala Sweet and Gary Glitter, and has pure Jett all over it as she sings about the social media engrossed world. ‘Soulmates To Strangers’ and ‘Make It Back’ carry on nicely with some more great crunching guitar pop. For this style, no one does it better than Miss Jett!
‘Fragile’ is a heavy riff rocker that warns against taking people for granted and the fragility of love, while the foot-stomping and hand-clapping style of ‘Reality Mentality’ preaches against the world of ‘reality’ television and the morons who follow such things. ‘Bad As We Can Be’ has a real Ramones feel to it while remaining all Joan all the way.
‘Different’ is a call-to-arms for anyone who has even been the subject of ridicule for being, well, different. Although the ear-turning choppy guitar riff that drives the song eventually starts to become a bit monotonous, but the guitar break saves the day. ‘Everybody Needs A Hero,’ the ballad that ends the album, has Joan’s sound adorned with a surprise move, the addition of strings. Guess what?! It works, and ends the album on a heartwarming note.
The album is short, sweet and to the point, and has many signature Jett moments on it. That being said, there is something about it that seems to lack the proper venom. At times, Jett’s vocals come off as a little understated. Where the lyrics should be spat forth, they are merely sung, and there are no real frantic rockers on it. That aside, it is a fine album and worth the near decade long wait. Jett fans with be loving every moment of it.