Night and Day II
For much of Joe Jackson’s two decade long career, I’ve been hoping for Look Sharp II, since that 1979 record first defined for me Jackson’s brand of angry young man post-punk pop. I guess Night and Day II will have to suffice for now. The first Night And Day, in 1982, definitely had its share of strong songs, the great singles “Steppin’ Out” and “Breaking Us in Two” among them. And it wasn’t too long after that that things started to get a bit dodgy in Jackson’s catalogue. But I had hopes that this “sequel” would at least exhibit some of the Jackson sound of old.
Well folks, bad news. Night and Day II is pretty much a sequel in name only. The lyrical theme of life in New York and heavily percussive arrangements may provide a tenuous link to the first record. But Night and Day II is an unpleasant amalgamation of classical, jazz, and dated-sounding synth pop. Jackson plays most of the music himself on piano and synthesizer with contributions from longtime compatriot Graham Maby on bass, a percussionist and a string quartet. He only sings on six of the ten songs, leaving vocals on three tracks to Marianne Faithful (“Love Got Lost”), Dale Devere (“Glamour And Pain”) and Sussan Deyhim (the operatic, Middle Eastern-sounding “Why”).
But even a little of Jackson goes a long way. On “Stranger Than You,” he sings “On 83rd and Amsterdam, there’s an Indian Jew/ Who pissed on his private parts with a permanent screw.” And get a load of these lines from “Just Because”: “Don’t look at me on the subway and I won’t look at you/ Don’t touch me with your greasy gloves and syphillitic flu.” Yuccch.
“Happyland” is perhaps this record’s “Steppin’ Out.” It has some pretty piano but is nearly marred by the synthetic percussion. Jackson actually quotes that song musically on “Stay.”
So I’m still waiting but not holding my breath for Look Sharp II. And after hearing this record, I’m still waiting for Night and Day II as well.
Sony Music, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022