Jackson has long been one of the more adventurous and unpredictable of contemporary singer-songwriters. His latest release finds him working primarily in a pop vein bill in an unattractively prickly fashion.
At his worst, as on the preachy “Obvious Song” (“So we starve all the teachers/And recruit more Marines/How come we don’t even know what that means/It’s obvious”), he comes across as a swollen, whiny Billy Joel.
On more approachable songs, such as the beboppy “Goin’ Downtown,” the salsa-spiced “Jamie G.” and “My House,” and the post-Mersey beat spoof “Hit Single,” Jackson’s explorations of familiar styles sound condescending. “The Other Me” is gently arranged, but it brings out the adenoidal, wormy aspects of Jackson’s voice.
The record isn’t a total washout. There is, for instance, the cynical take on romance, “Fiction.” There is also a robust, tropical reading of the old Fleetwood Mac rumble “Oh Well.”
Too much of the time, however, Joe Jax just sounds jaundiced. (Virgin)