joan jett album review by midwest music scene


They’re back!  Joan Jett and the Blackhearts are returning with their 11th studio album titled “Unvarnished” on September 30th.  Everything we have come to know and love about the band is here – heavy guitars, the signature Blackheart drumbeat, catchy melodies and the unmistakable raspy vocals of Ms. Jett herself.  This time around the lyrics take on a more serious tone covering topics from losing loved ones to Hurricane Sandy, social media and bullying.  The album kicks off with “Any Weather”, a track written with Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and recorded in his 606 studio.  With its catchy melody and chorus it’s no wonder this track is the first single and video from the album.  Next up is “TMI”, a song that begins with the notorious Thommy Price drumbeat that drives the Blackheart sound.  This infectious song is one of my favorites from the album with the lyrics tackling the seriousness of sharing too much on social media.  The 2nd guest songwriter on the album is none other than Laura Jane Grace from Against Me who co-wrote “Soulmates To Strangers”.  This is a great one that has already been released to college radio and I suspect may become the official 2nd single.  Jett tackles the destruction of Hurricane Sandy with the groove-laden “Make It Back” but things get the most personal with the next two tracks “Hard To Grow Up” & “Fragile”.  Jett has called this the decade of death after losing loved ones and pets and the lyrics here speak volumes.  “Fragile” is a standout track with a heavy, driving guitar riff and the most intense lyrics on the album – “It’s a thin string between life and death, she’s close enough that I can feel her breath, a tenuous encampment of this world, spirit left her body I’m still her little girl. I’m at the point in life now I think about, my own mortality and how it all works out”.  Co-written with lead guitarist Dougie Needles, “Different” covers the serious subject matter of being bullied and not being afraid to be different – “live your life outside the box, blow off all the empty talk, they focus on the things you’re not, just walk your walk”.  “Reality Mentality” penned solely by Jett is a fun rocker about reality television and how America is obsessed with it.  Jett did a fine job here and this one will stick with you like the aforementioned “TMI” with it’s catchy grooves.  Closing the album is the ballad “Everybody Needs A Hero” written by Kenny Laguna & Peter Anders.  This one was a nice surprise to end the album with and something I didn’t expect to hear from Jett but works here very nicely.  So Joan Jett & The Blackhearts have done it again.  Another collection of balls out rock ‘n roll tunes but this time with lyrics reflecting the trials of life.  One track not to be missed is the bonus song on the deluxe version called “Seriously”.  This one harkens back to the Glitter Rock music that Jett grew up on and partied to at the famous Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco in Los Angeles while she was forming her first group The Runaways.  Do I hear some Sweet and T. Rex in this one?  This song was a guilty pleasure for me.  A killer track you will want to hear for sure.  Joan has been called the queen of rock and the godmother of punk and after almost 40 years of churning out great rock music she shows no signs of slowing down.  ”Unvarnished” is a great album not to be missed by the legendary Joan Jett.  Oh, and did I mention it’s even available on vinyl?   (by Michael Ervin)

joan jett unvarnished album review by midwest music scene