Joan Jett and the Blackhearts just released their first album of new material in seven years. We have heard most of the songs the last couple years played live, as the band has been trying them out in front of audiences. There are some subtle changes on the recorded versions, but not enough of a change to say I prefer one over the other.
The first single from Unvarnished is Any Weather. Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters and Nirvana co-wrote the song and played every instrument on it except for rhythm guitar. He produced the track in his 606 studio with the mixing board from the Sound City recording studio. If you are an audiophile or music history buff, you should watch his documentary, Sound City from earlier this year.
Another songwriting collaboration with someone outside of the Blackhearts is Soulmates to Strangers. Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! worked on that one with Joan Jett. My favorite collaborators are still Donita Sparks and Kathleen Hanna.
The Blackhearts take on topical issues such as over-sharing on Twitter with TMI, reality shows taking over our television screens on Reality Mentality and rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy with Make It Back.
Joan gets personal with Hard To Grow Up and Fragile. She has referred to recent years as the "decade of death". She has lost many close to her, including her parents. Listening to the lyrics makes me want to give her a big hug. And I am honored that I was able to do that a few months after her mother passed away.
Bad As We Can Be reminds me of Poison's Talk Dirty To Me, but I still like it. The song that I think I like the most on the album is Different. Its theme really resonates with me.
The last track on the album is the only one not written by Jett. Everybody Needs A Hero is an adventurous tune, employing strings, oboe and English horn. It sort of ends the album on a sour note. But everybody does need a hero, and mine is Joan Jett.