Sinner

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

Move over, Britney — Joan Jett is the real pop princess. Yes, pop. Now wait....don’t spit out your bubblegum or fall off your roller skates in dismay. Pop doesn’t have to be bland, robotic and numbingly repetitive. Good pop is strong, melodic, passionate and laced with more hooks than a Hellraiser movie. It can even sport black leather and tar-thick eyeliner, pummel you with power chords, and snarl about S&M. As long as it’s sincere. And Joan Jett’s sincerity is as abundant as her studs and grommets. The woman must surely have a double-bass drum for a heart and guitar strings for ganglia. Music is her essence, not merely her employment. And that essence is distilled on the long-awaited Sinner.

There’s been some Jett turbulence because many of these tracks are from Naked, which was released only in Japan. OK, file that complaint under “Non-Issue.” Unless, of course, you’re a diehard collector — or a resident of Japan. For the majority who aren’t in either category, “Sinner” will bless you with Joan Jett music that normally wouldn’t have landed anywhere near your eardrums. Jett and her trusty Blackhearts kick off the CD with the political “Riddles,” which questions, but doesn’t preach. And even if you don’t know your ass from your elephant, you can still dance to it! There’s also her firestorm version of Sweet’s “AC/DC,” and the sultry, hypnotic “Baby Blue.” Jett's cover of The Replacements’ “Androgynous” is here, too, although its tongue-in-cheek flippancy always seems to fare better when she and the gang play it live.

And then there’s her sinister, sneering S&M song, “Fetish,” with its explicit line, “Relax, while I pound your ass,” amusingly followed by the achingly tender ballad “Watersign.”“Everyone Knows” is her coming-out song — although everyone has known for a long time, and would support her whether she were straight, gay, a pterodactyl, or a stalk of broccoli. As long as she has that siren’s song of a voice, which calls with equal allure to both genders. That voice, with its gravelly, teenage haughtiness, its beckoning breathiness, its primal rawness. Sinner is definitely one cherry that ain’t no bomb!

~ Merryl Lentz

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