Joe Jackson

Laughter & Lust

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After the inappropriately bombastic arena rock of Blaze of Glory, Joe Jackson returned (somewhat) to his roots to deliver the most straightforward pop album in his career in Laughter & Lust. While Jackson's late-'80s output is composed of intelligent, if often forgettable, adult pop/rock, Laughter & Lust feels almost like a snotty declaration of Jackson's pop skills. He's "been there, done that" with pop music, and with Laughter & Lust he shows off just how effortlessly he can construct a commercially viable pop album. Nowhere is this more present than on the bitter "Hit Single," a tirade about the disposability of pop music and the public's inability to digest more than "just the hit single." But Jackson saves this inscrutable slap in the face of his fans by setting it to -- surprise -- a massive pop hook. And it's that paradox that exists all over Laughter & Lust; songs like "Stranger Than Fiction" and "When You're Not Around" sound so effortless, so catchy, so made for radio -- and yet you know that Joe Jackson constructed these songs just because he could, not necessarily because he wanted to. It's a testament as much to Jackson's abilities as it is to his ego, and Laughter & Lust became his not-so-subtle goodbye to pop music, as he would continuously foray into "serious" music from here on out. Still, for a fan who can see past the attitude, Laughter & Lust does deliver more bang for the buck than any Jackson album since Night and Day, simply because Jackson really does know how to construct a good pop song, even if he's condescending while doing it.

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