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Classic of the Week

Joe Jackson "Look Sharp!" (1979) A&M

April 22, 1993|KATHLEEN ROBERTS

Remember when albums were made up of three-minute songs? Though it came along much later, Joe Jackson's debut "Look Sharp!" (11 songs; 36:32 total running time) takes us back to those days. Right after the punk revolution (one-minute songs) and just before the advent of five-minute songs with extended dance mixes, Jackson snuck in this set of straightforward, hook-laden, pop-rock gems.

The lyrics are either satirical ("Sunday Papers"), or about sex and related entanglements ("One More Time"), or both at once ("Is She Really Going Out With Him?"). The real pleasure, though, is in the tight, four-piece instrumentation that expands and contracts comfortably through various styles from doo-wop ("Pretty Girls") to reggae ("Fools in Love") to even a little Ramones/frenetic "1-2-3-4" style ("Got the Time"). Jackson wrote, arranged, sang and played the piano and/or harmonica on all 11 cuts. Refreshing when it was released, "Look Sharp" sounds timeless.

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