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Joan Jett & The Blackhearts’ New Album ‘Unvarnished’ Review

Blackheart Records

by Anna Adelman

She loves rock n’ roll, but she hates herself for loving you. She was “Pink” before “Pink” was born, and she doesn’t give a damn about her bad reputation. She’s been a Runaway, a Jett, and a Blackheart, and now, after a seven-year break, the rocker girl Joan Jett is back with the Blackhearts and a new album, Unvarnished.

From the album’s first guitar riff, The Blackhearts blast through the speakers, shattering any doubt that the band lost its edge during that hiatus. Unvarnished contains tracks that feature both the classic Joan Jett with the hard-driving drumbeat and a new twist that sounds almost popish, even lighthearted. Take the first track, “Any Weather,” a collaboration between The Blackhearts and Dave Grohl, Foo Fighter front-man and Nirvana drummer, and you will hear the standard crunching guitar and heavy drum that are synonymous with the Joan Jett sound, but the lyrics are simple and upbeat. Some  lyrics are almost cliched and might even pass as a greeting card message as in “We can stay together through any weather” line.  But hear that track once and you will hear it all day long as it loops endlessly through your mind!  The tracks “TMI” and “Make it Back” are equally catchy.

Like a poet, Jett mocks the frivolousness of the modern day.  But like a rocker, she’s pretty pissed off about it. The track “TMI,” for example, seems to be a musical rant against sharing too much of one’s private life in public formats like social networking.  Not only is she sick of posts about dates and bosses, but she warns against typing away privacy and carelessly dismissing one’s dignity. Only Joan Jett can rhyme rumors with tumors and get away with it!

All in all, Unvarnished is an album that at first seems generic but grows on you over time. The lyrics are at once forgettable and memorable, and I know this because I just brushed my teeth to the tempo of “TMI. TMI. Too Much Information!” and I don’t even like that song!  What can I say? Jett’s raspy rocker voice coupled with the thumping rocker beat make Unvarnished an album most Blackhearts fans should not miss.

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