Thursday, 31 May 2012

Glass Houses

Billy Joel can kick Elton John's ass anytime.

No, seriously. I can't say what would happen in a hypothetical battle between the Incredible Hulk and the Silver Surfer, but I'm pretty sure Billy would beat the crap out of Elton in a fight. And I do know that no album Elton John ever wrote and released could ever be better than Billy's "Glass Houses".

Weird record, "Glass Houses". It's nothing you could ever expect from a guy coming off the heels of two jazzy multiplatinum albums like "The Stranger" and "52nd Street": It's rawer, harder, more guitar-based, a puzzle: Why risk alienating your fans like this? My attempt at an explanation is that Billy spent 1979 listening to angry young men with skinny ties, people like Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello and The Knack, and was influenced by them. I mean, listen to tracks like "You May Be Right" or "It's Still Rock 'N' Roll To Me": It's straight pub rock by the Piano Man, without a piano in sight. And it's fucking great:

But wait, my theory runs deeper. "Glass Houses" is such a fantasic record because Billy, through his influences, managed to successfully bring together two mutually exclusive music genres: On the one side we have the aforementioned angry pub rock, and on the other hand we have an obvious influence from the rising melodic hard rockers of the era. Check out the proto-AOR gem "All For Leyna" that concludes side A:

See what I mean? It's all there. "Glass Houses" is the perfect late 70's/early 80's album, the marriage between all popular genres of the period combined with Billy's own laid-back aesthetic, which is still present in beautiful songs pointing either towards his own past ("Don't Ask Me Why") or his future ("Sleeping With the Television On"). 

Say it's cheesy, call me a geek, but I'm 100% serious, folks: There's no filler here. Just 10 great songs and an album I really, truly love. Every single time I play it I want to dance around my living room wearing a skinny tie. And you know why? Because everybody's talkin' 'bout the new sound, funny, but it's still rock 'n' roll to me.

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