Night Time (1985) ***1/2
The maxim, "Never judge a book by its cover," isn't quite bullshit but in my experience it's often not quite true, either: nine times out of ten a glance at the front jacket of an album can tell you exactly what sort of genre the band is aiming for (and the fashion styles of the band photo on the back cover can pinpoint the exact decade it was released, if not exact year). This cover screams 1985 and guess what? It sounds like 1985, too. It's glossily overproduced in that quaint mid-'80s fashion. But even though it's much smoother, with the guitars gliding and glistening rather than grinding and galvinating, and Jaz actually singing rather than hoarsely shouting, and the rhythm section muted to a standard 4/4 tom-tom rather than primal pound (a thinly produced engineering error, presumably), and it's considerably more melodic, with actual verse/chorus/chorus traditional song structures rather than tribal chants, this is still more of a hard rock than synth-pop album. Oh, it teeters near the edge of mid-'80s Cure, but guitars still dominate, even if Geordie's riffs serve more as angular pop hooks than skull-crushing rhythms. In any case, the sellout worked, with the Joke scoring their first Top of the Pops chart entry, the broodingly bass-driven "Love Like Blood," which would score even higher if re-released in today's vampire-soaked media environment. Kids today - what the fuck is wrong with them? What the hell is up with this hokey Twilight shit? Speaking of hokey, that's the biggest obstacle a 21st century listener shall have to overcome when piping these digital waves through the headphones of your portable listening device - the sound is so stereotypically darn mid-'80s! To be fair, this also sounds a bit like Jane's Addiction (minus the metal) or Jesus & the Mary Fucking Chain (minus the cornball amplifier fuzz). Influence, they call it. And as every reviewer post-1991 is obliged to point out, the final track, "Eighties," was shamelessly nicked as the basis for Nirvana's "Come As You Are." That out of the way, let's get on to the other standout tracks: "Kings and Queens," possesses a hypnotic raga-punk swirl of a solo that swings off immediately after the chorus, and "Europe," likewise boasts an autobahn-worthy drive & surging pop chorus. There are four other songs (to make 8 total, in all, in toto, in sum) but they aren't as worthy, so I won't mention them.