Tuesday, August 07, 2007

"Fools In Love" / Joe Jackson

This coming Saturday, August 11, is Joe Jackson's birthday (he'll be 53), so I'm declaring the rest of this week Joe Jackson Week. And what a pleasure it will be to write about Joe Jackson; he's one of those wonderful artists I never listen to as much as I could. I forget how much I like him, until a song comes up on my shuffle and is just so glorious it stops me in my tracks.

Like this one, from his 1979 album Look Sharp! -- as soon as that slouching ska intro begins, I sit up and grin. That ska accent is a dead New Wave giveaway, but Joe was never a knee-jerk New Waver, and soon this song sidles into jazz territory, where Joe's pianistic skills can really shine. "Fools in love," he starts off, confidingly, as though shaking his head -- "Are there any other kind of lovers?" Dropping his voice lower, he rattles off a list of the annoying symptoms, in finger-wagging tempo: "Everything you do / Everywhere you go, now / Everything you touch, / Everything you feel / Everything you see, / Everything you know, now / Everything you do, you do it for your lady love / Your lady love, your lady love," repeated fiercely with big twanging strums on the guitar. Tsk-tsk. "Fools in love," he sings, returning to the verse, "are there any creatures more pathetic?" flinging off that last adjective with such fastidious scorn, you can't help but agree.

But in the chorus, a little more earnestness creeps into his voice and he rises to a higher register, almost yelping: "Fools in love, they think they're heroes / Cause they get to feel no pain / I say fools in love are zeroes / I should know" -- then, with a dramatic pause, he caustically turns the whole thing on its head. "I should know because this fool's in love." Just by sticking in an apostrophe, he changes the whole meaning of the title. Brilliant.

Self-hatred is an underexplored emotion in rock 'n' roll, and nobody expresses self-hatred with as much delicious flair as Joe Jackson. It sits very well on him -- tall, gawky, bony, pale, balding, he looks like a guy who just might have self-esteem issues. Whether he actually does or not is totally irrelevant; somebody in pop music needs to speak for the sensitive geeks among us. He never buys us off cheap by pretending it's going to be all right, either. And as he rips off that cathartic, elegant piano solo in the middle eight, he absolutely vindicates himself. Man, I'll listen to this fool in love any day.

Fools In Love sample


Julie said...

Joe Jackson week! What a great idea. He's one of my absolute favorites. I listened to this song just last week.

Anonymous said...

Joe Jackson! Respect Holly!!
A true genius. So underrated that it hurts. He deserves all the attention he can get.