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Still rocking

Sinner
Sinner
By Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

Blackheart Records: 2006

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This review first appeared in Turbula in December 2006.

Twenty-five years after rocketing up the charts with "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" and a dozen years since her last studio album, Joan Jett has come roaring back with a raw, energetic bit of pure rock 'n' roll built around some of the best songs she's ever written.

The album positively tingles with the kind of old-school rock 'n' roll energy that it sometimes seems has been lost forever. While emo and post-punk and screamo and the other 800 or so styles competing for attention today carve out their little niches, Jett simply rocks out above it all. The latest incarnation of the Blackhearts is as old-school as Jett: They sound like what Aerosmith could have been if not for the lure of the lucrative power ballad. Loud guitars atop propelling beat from guitar and drums combine to put a positively 1970s frame around Jett's lyrics.

But all that great music, as well as her bad-girl attitude and huge chip on her shoulder, are too often undermined by the weak content of the lyrics. "Androgynous" and "Everyone," for example, are teenage love songs – which is a bit strange coming from a 46-year-old woman. Other songs have simplistic political sloganeering in place of thoughtful lyrics – not that Jett was ever known for the depth of her lyricism, but with such rich structure to her new compositions the lightweight wordplay tends to stand out more than it might have in the past.

Jett certainly still has the voice to belt out with the best of them, and clearly hasn't run out of musical ideas.

But she seems stuck in time thematically on too many of her songs. As the Pretenders have shown of late, it's OK to write grown-up rock 'n' roll songs. Here's hoping Jett takes a stab at lyrics about adulthood next go-round.