I bought this record because "Steppin' Out" is one of the greatest pure pop songs in the history of music. I expected the rest of the record to be good, but not this good–it ended up over-impressing me with how deep and diverse it is.
Joe Jackson is one of those rare artists that should, by any and all rational means, be as popular as an Elvis Costello or a David Byrne. However, he's always managed (at least in the U.S.) to stay one tier below guys like that. It's not for a lack of great songs. While he'll eternally be linked with the bland "Is She Really Going Out With Him?", there are non-single tracks on this LP ("Target" comes to mind) that run circles around the saccharine lumps in that radio staple.
Keeping in mind that I have a fairly uninformed opinion of the man's entire career, Jackson strikes me as one of those guys who is maybe too good a musician to really do the pop thing justice. Even the slicker pop numbers on this record (like "Breaking Us In Two") are sprinkled with tricky percussion and lots of little hits and intricacies, and often take left turns to allow for dense solos that are, while really great, unexpected when taken in context with the catchiness of the melodies.
I was listening to "Steppin' Out" a few weeks ago, and my wife made some comment about Jackson not being much of a singer. I had never really thought about that, but maybe his voice is a little off-putting. I've always found it sort of shaky and charming, adding a strange nervousness to the music. I guess that might not be a good thing...
Either way, this record is another one of those bargain bin scores that you shouldn't pass up. If you've got a turntable, you can easily find a copy of this on vinyl for a few bucks. Love it for "Steppin' Out," hold onto it for the other eight terrific songs.
"Breaking Us In Two"