Chris DeLine

Cedar Rapids, IA

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts “Sinner” Review

Published in Blog, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

One of the greatest points of interest on Sinner comes from its liner notes, “Thanks” in particular, as it drives an interest into where this new Joan Jett is coming from. Steven Van Zandt, Fugazi, Social Distortion’s Mike Ness and Rancid’s Lars Fredrickson among a laundry list of others are all named. See, despite being heavily influenced and rooted in punk as her references suggest, Jett and her Blackhearts are generally considered something quite different due to the ominous clash of character caused by the band’s life changing 1981 single “I Love Rock n’ Roll.” Jett has been known as merely a one-shot chump to far too many people despite stringing together and overcoming burdening successes. To many, many others, however, she is so much more. Whether it be a figurehead for riot grrrl femme-rock, a predecessor to sleaze-rock acts like Peaches or being able to withstand the blunt of spoofs (see: Weird Al Yankovic’s 1983 parody “I Love Rocky Road), Jett has now become something different, something more; even if some still recognize her for one song. And to some degree, that’s alright, because it is after all, one hell of a song.

Reuniting with The Blackhearts in 1999, Jett now continues to reestablish herself and her bad reputation with her latest album Sinner. The album initially invokes many thoughts, why is it so centered on sexual ambiguity or why is it so trashy, but more importantly how come it sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard from Jett before? Have I been missing out? Survey says: yes.

Opening up the album is the slower, politically poking “Riddles,” which playfully teases George W.’s bumbling soundbite “fool me once, shame on, shame on you…fool me, you can’t fool me again.” Did I mention that Jett also thanks Howard Dean in Sinner’s notes?

The album finds its ups and downs coming in odd areas, but it graphically revolves around whatever connotation punk takes with it these days. It seemed odd to see note of Jett’s presence on The Vans Warped Tour, one notable for its extensive depth in all things punk, but after listening to tracks like the driving “Change The World” it becomes clear as to why she was a fit. And what would be considered an amazingly odd selection if included on many other albums, a pop country-funk version of Paul Westerberg’s “Androgynous” finds itself a perfect fit on Sinner.

“If anything,” Jett explains “the lyrical content might be expanding.” But the album waffles when actually being held for its lyrical inspection. The thinly veiled “Fetish” beholds the unattractive side to Sinner which leads to the invitation of a distinct level of questionability to the entire album. At its core, though, that’s what punk is, overly sensible and positively persuasive on the surface with an underbelly of unease and discord. As it is Sinner is an inviting album which refreshingly surprises with revamped power of this band of now forty something rockers. Unfortunately however the tracks are corrupted by the album’s lyrics which fail to equal the same level of energy. Despite an expansion of content, the lyrics come across, at times, as narrow and the powerful introversion that could reduce even the most discriminatory of songwriters to weep simply isn’t there. Nonetheless Joan Jett continues to revamp her sound and style, and she does so with The Blackhearts are who thankfully keep the sinning rhythmic steed in line.

[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]