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Album Review

Apart from the Japanese-only Naked in 2004, Joan Jett hadn't released an album of all-new material in over a decade when she released Sinner in summer 2006, an amazing gap of time considering how vital and flat-out rocking she sounds on the album. Many rockers of her age and stature might have been content to just throw out a safe and innocuous record to help fill up the merch stalls on the state fair circuit. Not Jett. Her honesty and unyielding toughness has given her enough cred to headline a major alt-rock festival in 2006, and Sinner has both those qualities and then some. Her last album, Pure and Simple, was a step away from the glossy pop/rock her career had devolved into; Sinner is a huge leap toward total honesty, earnestness, and hard rock. The record contains a couple of good-time rockers reminiscent of her glory days ("Tube Talkin'," "Turn It Around"), but even the requisite glam cover, Sweet's "A.C.D.C.," deals with sexual confusion, albeit playfully. Elsewhere Jett delves into heavy or quite personal subjects; she hits on politics on the Bush-sampling "Riddles," raw sexuality on "Fetish," but mostly seems to be wrestling with issues of privacy, self-image, and sexual orientation on tracks like "Naked" and "Five." Luckily for the listener who just wants to rock, she wraps these introspective lyrics up in a tough and punchy style very similar to the classic Joan Jett sound. Even the ballads, like the achingly romantic "Watersign," have gloriously loud and gritty guitars and Jett's voice hasn't lost an ounce of power. There are a few slight stumbles like the catchy but overly earnest and simplistic "Change the World" and the cringe-inducing "Fetish," which seems to have snuck in from a totally different album. Actually it did, since the song first appeared on a 1999 collection called Fetish. In fact, ten of the songs on Sinner first appeared on Naked; only four appear here for the first time. No matter, really, as the album is new to most people, and it hangs together well, resonating both with those listeners who can relate to Jett's struggles and issues, as well as kids of any age who just dig good old hard rock & roll. Hopefully it won't be another decade before the next Joan Jett record, for with Sinner she's restaked a claim as an important artist and it'd be a real shame if she disappeared again.

Sinner, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
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