Joe Jackson - Beat Crazy

Joe Jackson
Beat Crazy

Released 1980 on A&M
Reviewed by Lawrence, 15/02/2012ce

Well this is difficult to review objectively. Joe Jackson I mostly remember for "Real Men", an intelligent look at what manhood really could be as opposed to what much of society thinks -- probably the one thing that helped me come to terms with my sexuality. This earlier album is a different kettle of fish, Jackson's most angry and also most disturbing, which I will get to...

Hearing this record, it's hard to believe it's the same person who wrote "Real Men". If I didn't know better, reading the lyrics, I'd think this was some sort of "Conservative Punk" act back during the George W. Bush era. I remember in interviews Jackson would say he was so full of anger at the time of this record it poured out of him. The way his vocals sound, though, he seems as much confused as angry...

Anyways the title track gives you an idea, which nobody really caught on to. A bouncy reggae track that actually suggests fans of rock 'n roll would do nothing against the threat of Communism. (Oh really!) The next track expands on this theme, about a lover who is more radical than he is, and he won't toe the line.

"In Every Dream Home (a Nightmare)" is his weird take on the Roxy Music song -- a kind of jaundiced view of the dark side of conventional home-life. Hand-wringing about what the neighbors might be doing when he's not looking, in other words... "Mad at You", however, is just disturbing -- taking his earlier misunderstandings of the opposite sex in song to an extreme degree, to the point of outright misogyny.

It carries on with the flipside with the first song about lowlife criminals who manage to thrive more than honest people do. "Battleground" is so strong it's hard to take although ironically dedicated to Linton Kwesi Johnson. He attempts to address racial tensions but his confusion just takes the song to where it really shouldn't -- I'm surprised he didn't get in trouble for that.

But the last track pretty much sums it all up -- "Fit", which is about not fitting in with people politically or socially. Maybe that's really the gist of what Jackson is saying? I think it is true that radical-Left politics are often so constrained that it's as stringent as the reactionary-Right.

Well anyways, the only reason I picked this up was I'm always interested in artists' darker or extremely emotional material -- those that are to the point of being commercial suicide, and Beat Crazy definitely was. I may hate Jackson for putting out such a record (and I'm pretty sure he's embarrassed by it to this very day), but it is musically well done for that sort of thing (mostly being reggae-based) and Jackson's voice is on high form here.

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