JOE JACKSON Look Sharp! (Vinyl Lovers)

I vividly remember thinking back when I was in school that the only album I still wanted to buy was “Look Sharp!” and then I’d have all the music I could possibly require. 20 years later, I’ve finally got around to purchasing it, although it hasn’t entirely quenched my thirst for further acquisitions.

Almost three decades after his debut, Jackson’s sharp-dressed misanthrope persona seems almost laughably derivative of Elvis Costello, and, to varying degrees, so does his music. “Fools In Love” is probably the most extreme example, its white reggae being practically a photocopy of “Watching The Detectives”. That doesn’t prevent “Look Sharp!” being a mindlessly enjoyable album, but Jackson’s heavy handed attacks on the tabloid press (“Sunday Papers”) and commoditised entertainment (“(Do The) Instant Mash”) haven’t worn the years lightly. Having said that, his bitter outbursts of jealousy and inadequacy (“Is She Really Going Out With Him?”, “Happy Loving Couples”, “Pretty Girls” and “You Got The Fever”) seem more like spilled bile than pointed social commentary these days.

The mysterious Vinyl Lovers imprint license material for reissue from Universal Music Russia, and their products seem to be something of a mixed bag. The pressing and packaging are very fine: “Look Sharp!” is presented as two 10” discs, true to its original configuration, but the button promised by the cover sticker was absent from my copy, perhaps a good thing considering the implications of shipping a badge in close proximity to delicate slabs of vinyl. Unfortunately, the sonics are not so good, the sharp and spitty sound suggesting, in the absence of accurate information to the contrary, that this might just be the CD cut to vinyl. The inclusion of two bonus b-sides from the reissued 2001 CD would appear to lend credence to that theory.