Joan Jett / Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

Pure and Simple

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From its title to its tough core, Pure and Simple was a return to form for Joan Jett. Encouraged by a new generation of riot grrls who held her early work up as the inspirational lightning rod it was (including L7 and Bikini Kill, who contribute here), Jett shook off the doldrums and found her way back to the nails-for-breakfast, queen-bitch persona that she was really all about. Pure and Simple rocks with a gritty realism unmatched even by the punchy 1988 hit "I Hate Myself for Lovin' You," the arguable crest of her '80s win streak. If the one-two punch of "Go Home" and "Eye to Eye" makes you dizzy, then "Spinster" -- "Maybe I don't wanna f*ck you!" -- is the bout-ending haymaker. After its oil-stained opening salvo, "As I Am" is like Lesley Gore in a leather jacket. But its sentiment forms the bruised emotional heart of Pure and Simple, and the plaintive chords of the bridge are just perfect. Some of the album's later social consciousness is unnecessary (this is a Joan Jett, not Joan Osborne), but "You Got a Problem" is a late-record redeemer. And even when she's singing about the plight of the homeless, Jett sounds like she gargled with Mad Dog 20/20. Pure and Simple is essential for any hard rock fan, if only to support one of the genre's most fearsome competitors.

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