Sound — 10
The first sound of this album is the sound of glass breaking, which says a lot about the release of the album. After the releases of two hit albums, Billy Joel swerved the other way (Hahahaha, irony) and moved from ballad-filled piano rock to guitar heavy New York-style rock. At first his main audience found this change in style to be a disappointment, feeling as if Billy had thrown a huge brick at the glass house that was his audience. However, this change in style would soon be accepted as Billy's songwriting was still top-notch. After six piano-based albums, Billy felt that it was time for a change, dumping his piano and instead wielding a guitar and a synthesizer, in favor of making music reminiscent of The Jam and The Cars. Songs like "Sometimes A Fantasy" and "All For Leyna" showed that Billy wasn't afraid to show his greaser background, while "Don't Ask Me Why" and "Through The Long Night" showed that he could still write a ballad. All and all, Glass Houses demonstrates how flexible Mr. Joel could actually be, and how through all of the fads that passed he could still hear rock and roll.
Lyrics — 10
In "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me", Billy asks "What's the matter wth the clothes I'm wearin'?" only to be answered with "Can't you see that your tie's too white?!". Billy's question was referring to the style change from Rock to Disco to New Wave/Punk. He then proceeds to say "It doesn't matter what they say in the papers cause it's always been the same old scene." This could be seen as 'firing back' at the critics that favored Billy's clean-cut 'Piano Man' sound and showing disappointment towards Billy's new 'Straight Outta New York' style. "All For Leyna" tells a tale of a man's obsession with, well, Leyna. Complete with a Synthesizer break and a heavily effected piano line, "All For Leyna" noted that Billy could still play the piano. "Sleeping With The Television On" and the standout track "You May Be Right" both seem to be about struggling to get a girl, while "Sometimes A Fantasy" is, well, basically about getting a girl, too. The point is that Billy Joel can weave the most beautiful song or the catchiest song, sometimes both in one. The man struggles when trying to write a song, and the final product only shows as proof that Billy can write a great rock song.
Overall Impression — 9
"Glass Houses" isn't Billy Joel's greatest album, but it is one of the defining New Wave/Post-Punk albums of all time, right up there with Duran Duran's "Rio" and The Police's "Zenyatta Mondatta". "You May Be Right" and "It's Still Rock And Roll To Me" were two major hits in the US, which means that although his original audience didn't particularly approve of his new style, his new songs were good enough to attract a bigger audience than ever before. Although he would ditch the 'Punky Billy' image for a more sophisticated one in his next album, "The Nylon Curtain", traces of his 'Glass Houses'-era rock still showed in both "The Nylon Curtain" and later on in "Storm Front". He would later prove in "An Innocent Man" that he could adapt to Frankie Valli-esque soul. Billy has proved that no matter what style of song he tried to create, it could come out great. Billy Joel is, indeed, a musical chameleon.