Reviews, I feel, benefit from a little back story. I was about 10 years old when I first discovered Joan Jett. It was the late 80s and I was obsessed with leather pants and teased hair. Not on me, of course, but on the rockers in the metal videos I consumed every day. So when “I Hate Myself For Loving You” came out, and here was a rocker wearing leather pants and teased up hair, who was actually a female—and a badass female at that—well, I was hooked. Up Your Alley was actually the first cassette I remember buying with my own money. I had gotten others as gifts or through trade or hand-me-downs or whatever. But I paid money for this one.
Obviously, I later discovered that Joan had recorded even better albums, both on her own and with The Runaways. But ‘better’ is almost an unnecessary term when it comes to Jett, because she always rules. And Unvarnished is no exception. With the opening chords, followed by a HEY!, and some powerpoppy hand claps, “Any Weather” lets you know that the Queen of Noise is STILL not interested in trend hopping.
I’m not much for track-by-tracks, but suffice it to say, Unvarnished doesn’t let up and Jett keeps the fun rolling right to the final note. Lyrical content ranges from relationships gone bad (“Soulmates to Strangers”) to commentary on entertainment in the 21st century (“TMI” and “Reality Mentality”). And aside from her voice sounding older (but only slightly), this record sounds as though it could’ve been recorded in 1983. In fact, this album would fit seamlessly in between the yellow record and Glorious Results…
If you like any of her records, you will probably like this. If you are one of those “Oh, I only like the old stuff” types, well, you will still probably like this—you just won’t admit it. The bottom line is this: Three-chord rock n’ roll will never die. And Joan Jett has and will forever see to that.