I have a "High Fidelity" moment at least once a week. New records come in almost daily, some to play and some to sell. Piles are made, to be filed and to be priced. There is almost always one record that surprises me. This weekend it was Joe Jackson's "Laughter & Lust."
I played this record constantly when it was released in 1991.
"Joe's back!" "A return to form!"
It made me think of how many times I've said this about Joe Jackson. After "I'm The Man" came "Beat Crazy," a dark record with reggae rhythms, short on pop choruses. Then, "Jumpin' Jive," his Louis Jordan inspired big band record. I love both those records now, but not as much then. "Night & Day" was not really a "return to form" but it at least had music that resembled something I loved listening to.
Then, a mostly forgettable soundtrack followed by "Body & Soul."
Not really, though. He was just back to what he was exploring on "Night & Day," which wasn't really being "back," but a great record nonetheless. Then came "Big World" and...
... Joe was really "back!"
Three sides of music that sounded like the perfect blend of the hook-filled new wave pop of "Look Sharp" and the rhythmic pulses and settings found on "Night & Day" and "Body & Soul."
Oh well, so much for Joe. "Will Power" followed and was even more forgettable than "Mike's Murder." Then another soundtrack. "Blaze Of Glory" tried too hard, a mostly overproduced collection of too many songs, too big orchestrations, and only a few hummable tunes for my tastes.
Which brings us to 1991's 'Laughter & Lust."
Now, before I say a few final words on "Laughter & Lust," I should point out, what followed was approximately 15 years of the same--classical, theatre, inferior sequels, and live records. And I know some may argue that there is great music to be found on all of those records. I would not disagree completely, but Joe Jackson really and truly wasn't back again until 2008's "Rain." If you're a Joe fan and you find yourself reaching for "Night & Day 2," or "Heaven & Hell," we should talk.
So, here is "Laughter & Lust," a record that I love so much, yet somehow forgot about until this weekend. I would argue that pound for pound, this is Joe's best pop record since his debut "Look Sharp" in 1978.
Is this record forgotten or is it just how I perceive it? With the exception of the opening track, "Obvious Song, not much ever appears in Jackson's live sets and Joe toured constantly since then. I was blown away by just how many songs could have been hit singles, not the least of which is "Hit Single."
I know some purists might balk at Joe's take on "Oh Well," the cover of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac's classic, but I think it kicks some serious ass.
If ""Laughter & Lust" hasn't been getting heavy rotation in your world, or like me, you just forgot it existed, there are worse things you could do on Monday in early January.