He’s clearly following the same rays of musical inspiration as Todd Rundgren used to follow on this song, out-Todding Todd. This song has everything that the tradition of melancholy love-gone-wrong songs demand – impassioned vocals (including a falsetto which I’m not sure I’ve heard Jackson ever use), minor chords and major chords held in contrast, and of course a sense of unfinished business that equals a tension of the bittersweet kind. Jackson always dealt with shades of grey in his work, and he continues his mastery of this approach again here. And his signiture brand of irony is in place too, of course.
The entire album is his best in years – a rock/pop piano trio of Jackson singing and playing piano, with long-time associate Graham Maby on bass guitar, and original drummer of Jackson’s first three albums, Dave Houghton showing some particularly versatile playing behind the kit. And he needs to be versatile on this one, with a lot of jazz overtones (which have always been present in Jackson’s work). Like his masterpiece Night & Day, there are no guitars on this one, which allows for Maby’s bass to breathe a bit, enough to create some interesting interplay for Jackson’s piano lines . And in places, a “Becker & Fagen has drinks with Duke Ellington” vibe just shines through. As a big fan of Joe’s classic period, I was thrilled to hear it.
And to round all of this off, I found this interview with Joe Jackson about the new record, and about songwriting in general.