October 25, 1982 12:00 PM

Joe Jackson

Like his English countryman Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson has been moving his musical fences outward. Last year he set aside the taut new-wave band he used on such hits as Is She Really Going Out With Him? to make the album Jumpin’ Jive, an uneven but earnest tribute to the big-band era. Now Jackson, 28, has emerged from a New York sojourn with Night and Day, a concept album of original songs about life in the city. The title, borrowed from Cole Porter, and the Art Deco-ish cover suggest Jackson is striving for a cosmopolitan theatricality. Jackson ends up with, however, neither an original idea, nor an old one cleverly put. Writing of a threadbare urban life, Jackson discovers derelicts (Chinatown), watches too much TV (TV Age), rails against radio deejays (A Slow Song), and—an old exercise for him—sneers at machismo (Real Men). Where his clunky phrasing doesn’t torpedo things, his humorless tone does (“Everything gives you cancer/ There’s no cure, there’s no answer” he sings in Cancer). Some of his new melodies are striking (Another World), but they conjure up the Police, Kid Creole, Latin music and Jackson’s own older songs more than they do the style evoked by his title. What city flavor the album has is provided by a gifted young conga-bongo player, Sue Hadjopoulos.

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