A consistently high-level display of songwriting craft.
Adam Webb 2008
Four years since his last album – 2003's critically acclaimed Volume 4 – Joe Jackson returns with arguably his most consistent collection yet. Recorded in his adopted hometown of Berlin, Rain represents a career culmination of work – shifting effortlessly between styles, and underpinned by the highest calibre of musicianship.
In some respects, little has changed in Jackson's universe. For a start, he's reunited with Graham Maby and Dave Houghton, both players on late-70s new wave classic Look Sharp!. Indeed, two songs here - "King Pleasure Time" and "Good Bad Boy" – could be culled from that pre-Reagan era; rolling back the years in a gusto display of spiky, skinny-tied rock. The enduring influence on contemporaries such as Elvis Costello and latterday piano-men like Ben Folds is palpable, as is Jackson's acerbic wit. The playing, as expected, verges on ESP – skipping playfully with a jazz-tinged feel of joy.
Of course, Jackson has proved himself a true renaissance man in the intervening years, dabbling in everything from soundtrack scoring to reggae and jump-blues. And so it proves here. The classical composer comes to the fore on "Solo (So Low)", before sidestepping into hyper-melodic pop ("Invisible Man", "The Uptown Train") and scene-stopping show tunes ("A Place In The Rain"). Gorgeous Seventies-style ballad "Wasted Time" suggests a few tricks picked up co-headlining a recent tour with Todd Rundgren.
The piece de resistance, however, is "Too Tough". Surely a staple of some future Radio 2 playlist, it’s a proper AOR pearl. And while Rain offers a consistently high-level display of songwriting craft, if you download just one track, then best make it this one.