Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Review of Unvarnished by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

Hey everyone. Dana here. As you can see from my previous blog post, I did a movie review of one of the worst films ever made, The Room. This time, I'm reviewing a CD made by my musical inspiration, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. They released their new album, Unvarnished, a few weeks ago and I thought it would be appropriate to review it.  Heck, maybe she'll even see this! (Yeah, in my dreams, haha!) Since there was a Deluxe Version of this album for only two bucks more with extra songs and some stickers, it was definitely worth it. Well, here it is, everyone! Joan Jett's new album, Unvarnished! *insert applause here*

Let's take a look at it track by track.

Track 1: Any Weather (606 Version)

 I definitely love this as an opening track. The wall of sound that emanates from the speakers right when you press play means that there's a lot to say when words don't cut it. 

"Any Weather" has an upbeat, pure rock n' roll sound, but also has classical music thrown in there too. But what really struck me was the lyrics of this song. The chorus, "we can stay together through any weather, we can stay together through anything" can be interpreted in a couple of different ways.
Since Joan made
Unvarnished an autobiographical album, there's a chance that this song is about Hurricane Sandy since she lived through it. She's from Long Island, and it took a toll on her town, Long beach. But at the same time, the "weather" can be interpreted as a metaphor. The weather can represent rough times, good times, anything that affects normality. No matter how bad things get, you've got friends/family/loved ones that will stick by you and stay with  you. If that isn't a beautiful message to send out to fans, I don't know what beautiful is.

Track 2: TMI

This one is another favorite of mine off of this album. In August 2012, me and my boyfriend, Eddie, went to see her in Coney Island and this was one of the new songs she played for us aside from her hits and other songs from previous albums. I remember singing along to TMI when I was up front against he barricade and I remembered how catchy it was. Aside from the catchy sing-along type chorus, melody and heartfelt lyrics that anyone can relate to, I love the bass intro that plays along with the drums. Since I'm a bass player, I'm a sucker for bass breaks, bass solos, and bass intros. 
From what I get from this song, the title of the song pretty much speaks for itself. Not everyone wants to know every last living detail of everyone's lives. It's all about how stupid gossip, rumors, shit-talking and not having any filters is a waste of time, breath, and energy. People post passive aggressive Facebook statuses and everyone wants to know who it's directed to instead of just, oh I don't know, talking DIRECTLY to the person you got a problem with. With every waking detail about someone's day at the tip of our fingers, it reminds me of how teenagers are; always wanting to know who is sleeping with who, who has a problem with another person, blah blah blah. In other words, Joan says high school gossip is pathetic. I couldn't agree more.

Track 3: Soulmates To Strangers

Soulmates To Strangers...does that phrase sound familiar or what? Really, who can't relate to that?! I didn't even have to listen to the song to know that it was about drifting from someone. I mean, seriously, everyone has had someone that that they loved dearly and then drifted to nothing at all. Whether it was a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a best friend, a husband, a wife, any kind of significant other...everyone has dealt with this at least once in his/her lifetime. I've had my share of boyfriends, "best friends," or people that I was close with. We used to talk every day and now, we're strangers. Some of them I haven't talked to in years because we either had a falling out, or we just talked less and less to the point where we don't even know each other. It's as if we never existed in each other's lives. Obviously, Joan lost someone special and it inspired her to write this song. If anything, she probably lost a lot of special people in her life since her songs are from the heart. Any song that speaks from the heart should be heard. I'd recommend this song to anyone that's currently dealing with a break up or a fight with a close friend. You're not alone. I promise.

Track 4: Make It Back

As soon as I heard the first few seconds of this song, it reminded me of songs that she wrote on her debut album, Bad Reputation. The guitar riff sounds something Chuck Berry would have written in the 1950's, so I can totally hear roots from older musicians in this song. The typical "one-four-five" chords that you hear in punk songs are heard during the verses as well. It's like I'm listening to a mix of 50's music and late 70's punk music.
With the lyrics, it sounds something along the lines of making through some kind of struggle, whether it was the hurricane or a personal struggle. But what I heard while listening to 102.3 WBAB while driving home from school tonight, this song really is about her experience during Hurricane Sandy. The opening verse about the sky getting dark, the wind getting stronger, houses going on fire, I was able to see everything in my mind while listening to those lyrics. The main chorus reminds me of the first track. Joan sings  "I know this train won't fall off the track 'cause I'm gonna make it back" many times throughout the song. The message pretty much says that despite the storm, things are gonna be okay and you're gonna make it through. Another inspirational song to listen to when things get rough. Really, why can't there be more musicians like her?

Track 5: Hard To Grow Up

Once again, the title speaks for itself. It is hard to grow up. Whether it's graduating college, looking for a full-time job with 40 hour week days, or having to grow up fast due to hardships, growing up is quite hard. But this one, was definitely an autobiographical song. Before this album was released, Joan's mother passed away. She was extremely close with her mother when she was alive, and "couldn't fathom" losing her back then. But now that she passed on, she really feels like growing up is hard. Losing a parent is one of the most heartbreaking things anyone can ever go through. I'm pretty sure every musician has written a song about the death of a loved one. For instance, I wrote a song about my friend, Casey Falconer, who died in a private plane crash on May 9th, 2012. Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day wrote the song "Wake Me Up When September Ends" as a memorial to his father who died when he was only ten years old. When a loved one dies, writing a poem, a song, or anything is the most therapeutic thing anyone can ever do when something this upsetting happens to someone. Even if you're not so good at writing poems or if you're not musically inclined, just write your thoughts down. If you don't feel like speaking about it, write it. 

Track 6: Fragile

What I like about this song is the diversity of sound I hear from the other songs on this album and other songs from previous albums. There's a string trio (i.e, a violin player, a viola player and cello player) on this song. What rock n' roll song has a string trio accompanying a rock band?! It's brilliant! Roughly two minutes into the song, there is a string trio solo in lieu of a guitar solo. With the exception of "Sons of Liberty" by Frank Turner or multiple songs by celtic punk band Flogging Molly, I've never heard a classical string instrument like a violin, viola or cello (or all of the above) replace an electric guitar for a solo. How cool is that? Aside from the instruments, the lyrics struck me. 
Since life is fragile, it really does make you think about your own mortality, like what she sings in the second verse.While listening to them, I think about all of the things I accomplished or attempted and if I regretted any of those things or not.  Anything can happen to you and could potentially change your life. It can happen in seconds, it can happen many years from now. In short, never take your life for granted.

Track 7: Reality Mentality

This is another song I remember hearing when I went to her concert August 2012. Mainly because the melody of "Reality Mentality" stuck with me for the rest of the night. I remember singing the chorus because it was so damn catchy. Not to mention that phrase "reality mentality" is repeated multiple times throughout the song. From what I get from this song, it pretty much says that people in society live in a "reality mentality" instead of mentality that isn't based on what they've just seen. In other words, people believe everything they see on TV; whether it's a stupid ass reality show, Fox News, or anything that appears to be real when it really isn't. About two weeks ago in my Political Communications class, I watched a video by Professor George Gerbner called "The Electronic Storyteller," which pretty much means that people who watch TV are more prone to believe that everyone acts like what they see on the screen. For instance, news stories that depict crime and violence make viewers believe that there is crime and violence right in their own neighborhood. With that being said, the more reality shows and one sided news stories you watch, the chance that you believe everything you see significantly increases. Listen to this song and some how, watch the video "The Electronic Storyteller," and tell me that these two forms of media share the same message

Track 8: Bad As We Can Be

The wall of sound returns! Is it just me, or can you hear pure punk rock while listening to this? I hear Ramones and Misfits influences while listening to this. It makes me wanna mosh and maybe one day cover this song with my band! I'm usually not too huge on guitar solos, but I absolutely love when a guitar solo sounds like the chorus and it isn't just shredding all over the fret board  From what I get out of these lyrics, "I'm no good for you, you're no good for me, we're as bad as we could be," I can't figure  out if it's about breaking up, or both being bad to the point where they're meant to be together. I guess, interpret the way you want to. There's no right or wrong.

Track 9: Different

With the exception of the cowbell at the beginning of the song, the intro sounded just like "I Hate Myself For Loving You." I may love loud, lightning fast, upbeat songs, but this one is slower than the other ones. What I love the most about it is the lyrics. It's all about BULLYING; my biggest pet peeve. It's the biggest out of my other big pet peeves. Joan is to-the-point on this one. People stare at you, make fun of you, and treat you poorly solely because you're DIFFERENT. Oh hell no, NO ONE should ever be treated poorly for not conforming to the popular scene. No one should ever be alienated, excluded or get insulted for liking different music, wearing different clothes, having a different accent, or having anything that apparently threatens "normality" or whatever is considered "normal." Sounds like what I went through in high school! Why didn't this song come out when I was in high school, God dammit?! This would have been my anthem! But it's alright, Joanie, I forgive you. The fact that this song exists makes everything better. Apparently being different is "weird" or "isn't normal." Remember ladies and gentlemen, normality isn't universal.  At the close of the song, It ends with the drums imitating a heart beating. It sent shivers down my spine.

Track 10: Everybody Needs A Hero

Wow. Can you say surprise? For the first time, there's a ballad accompanied by a symphony orchestra. Holy crap everyone, this is pure diversity at it's finest. You begin an album with a wall of sound and close an album with a ballad. Holy crap. This is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. I feel like this song is played for a slow dance at a prom or a wedding. When I thought Joan couldn't amaze me enough, she managed to surprise me by adding a ballad to this album. I'm at a loss for words with this one. She says everybody needs a hero...well, I have a hero. Her name is Joan Jett.

Overall, this is one of the finest albums I've ever listened to. What I love is that these lyrics are really mature and addresses serious issues like love, death, tragedies and hardships instead of lyrics that she used to write in her older albums from 25 years ago. Lyrics can be set to any kind of music, but all of these lyrics were appropriately placed with the right rhythm and melody. Every song sounded different; there were times where I'd listen to an album and one track would sound almost exactly like an earlier track. When I first heard that Unvarnished was going to be an autobiographical album, I had no idea that it would be so close to home and being able to relate to what she went through. Raw emotions is the only way to create something beautiful, and that's what I intend to do with my band. Joan Jett once again gave me a reason to keep doing what I'm doing, and I hope one day everyone has someone they look up to the way I do.

That's all, everyone. Thank you so much for reading. See you next week.
Until then, have a great weekend.


  1. This album is awesome, and so is this review! Good job again, Dana :-)

    1. Thank you for reading, Brendan. =]
      I really really appreciate it so much!♥