Hearing this reissue of Look Sharp makes me wish to experience a similar treatment of the Buzzcocks’ Singles Going Steady.
I’d spin Look Sharp after quitting a crappy job.
I could imagine the record as an alternative soundtrack for the Netflix series “The End of the F**king World.”
On Joe Jackson’s personal website, he writes that Look Sharp “positively reeks of London 1978-79.” He’s absolutely right, but that’s what a classic record does— captures a slice of history and allows listeners to dive deep inside the instant when the music was made. From the cynical media takedown “Sunday Papers” to the rock-steady ska of “Fools in Love,” Look Sharp is a quintessential example of new-wave, a genre for folks bored with the mainstream but not quite able to fully embrace the nastier, street-level grit of the Ramones, Sex Pistols, or the Clash. By the time Jackson’s quirky rhythms and the clever “Is She Really Going Out with Him” broke into the U.S. Top 20, Look Sharp’s album cover had become an iconic symbol that implied even people in middle America were ready for music with more edge.
Look Sharp hews closely to the new-wave ethos of honoring 50s- and 60s-style short, tight songwriting. Aside from Elvis Costello’s Attractions, Joe Jackson’s supporting band was about as tight an ensemble as you could find at the time. In particular, Graham Maby’s muscular bass lines and David Houghton’s lightning-quick fills and rim shots elevate many of Jackson’s hooks and turns of phrase. A majority of the songs were written and recorded in late 1977 and early 1978, but were re-recorded after A&M producer David Kershenbaum heard a demo and recognized everyone involved could create a record of the moment.
After years of hearing original U.S. copies of Look Sharp on lousy turntables and, even worse, putting up with paint-peeling digital copies and downloads, I admit to having pretty much lost interest in the recording. So please excuse my surprise when I first played Intervention Records’ reissue. Kevin Gray’s remaster from the original analog tapes breathes new life into the stellar band and renews my respect for a record I’d begun to suspect was watered-down punk. This ruler-flat hunk of dead-quiet 180-gram wax plays as sonically dynamic, addictive rock n’ roll. And the raised, glossy white texture of the sharp shoes on the beautiful, debossed tip-on cover push it to an even higher caliber. Look sharp, indeed.
*VinylReviews.com is owned and operated by Intervention Records’ Founder Shane Buettner.
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