Sound: After 25 years, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts have not shied away from the sound that made them famous: good ol' rock and roll. There are no frills in the band's music and fans probably wouldn't want it any other way. Their latest release Sinner does not hit the mark on every song, but it is still a testament to the rawness that has sustained the band for the past few decades.
For fans of newer, younger bands, the style of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (drummer Thommy Price, guitarist Dougie Needles, bassist Enzo Penizzotto, and keyboardist Kenny Laguna) might not be intricate or have enough going on in terms of guitar work. But when it comes just writing a rocking tune, the band still has the ability to having you humming a song that you might have only heard once. This result is evident in Sinner's best track, A.C.D.C. It actually has a classic blues rhythm that flows underneath the crunchy distortion, giving it a familiar sound with a little punch. When you add in lyrics about a bisexual lover, it adds all the more oomph.
Five goes a bit longer than the average track by the Blackhearts (over five minutes), but it's worth it given that Jett shows off that same fire heard in classics like I Hate Myself For Loving You. Jett's growl is absolutely the highlight of the song, and if anything, it makes you truly realize how much Courtney Love must have been influenced by the former Runaways guitarist.
A few songs on Sinner lack the attitude or melodic uniqueness to keep listeners' attention. Everyone Knows features a repeating and monotonous guitar line that is hard to get past. Likewise, Jett's vocals echo the redundancy of the riff and the tune never really goes anywhere interesting. Most of the tracks are not filled with awe-inspiring guitar technique, but the band doesn't necessarily require it -- the melodic base is enough to likely keep fans of the Blackhearts pleased. // 8
Lyrics: In the true punk spirit, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' lyrics are straightforward and meant to pack a punch. Lyrically, there isn't much that can shock these days, but it's always nice to see that musicians aren't afraid to push a few buttons. A.C.D.C. tells the tale of a bisexual lover who just can't get enough of either men or women. Jett sings, She got girls; Girls all over the world; She got men; Every now and then; But she can't make up her mind. They are overly simplistic lyrics that could be comical fodder, but they still add plenty of unexpected spice.
Perhaps even more scandalous is Fetish, which is chock-full of a sexually charged thoughts. Jett sings, Oh, look good in latex; Get off having rough sex; Surprise, round and round the bed; Restrained while I f--k your head. These lyrics are obviously going to offend some, but after all these years in the biz, kudos to Jett for having the balls to talk dirty. // 8
Overall Impression: Joan Jett and the Blackhearts offer up a satisfying collection of punk-based rock tunes on their latest effort Sinner. The band is successful in balancing memorable melodies and attitude on several tracks, and there are plenty of singles among the roster. Their sound won't appeal to those desiring elaborate production or excessive instrumental layering from their bands, but there are still a few tunes that have the drive that might just win even the pickiest listener over.
Perhaps the most refreshing aspect to Sinner is that there are multiple ballads along with the raunchy tunes. One minute Jett is singing about sexual escapades and the next she is serenading a lover, which shows some fearlessness in itself. The ballads don't quite have the same effect as the harder tracks, but there is a sweet overtone to songs like Watersign and Bad Time that gives the album a well-rounded feel. Jett's ability to go from a raspy snarl in one moment and a delicate songbird in the next is a fascinating experience, and it is pretty good evidence of why she and the Blackhearts are among the survivors of the ever-changing music scene. // 8