For her 11th studio album, Joan Jett, the mother of all Riot grrrls, decided to explore some weightier subjects than merely sex and bad reputations. On her first release of new material since 2006's Sinner, Jett tackles broken relationships, growing pains and grieving the loss of loved ones. Unvarnished is comprised of all original material that Jett and her band mates have been writing and recording for the better part of of the last five years.
Boasting no frills, unrefined production that cranks the guitars way up in the forefront and finds Jett's seductive rasp ringing clearly, Unvarnished (Blackheart Records) is undoubtedly one of Jett's finest and most consistent albums. The rock solid opening cut, "Any Weather," was co-written by lead Foo Fighter Dave Grohl and is a great kick-off. Social media and the excessive amounts of intimate details its participants are willing to divulge are lambasted in the topical "TMI." "Reality Mentality" takes a page from classic, gritty garage rock while "Everybody Needs A Hero," the album's melodic closing ballad, tones things down and features an unlikely pairing of strings and horns. Although it might seem out of place on such a hard-rocking record, it works perfectly and serves as a fitting, sedate end to an album brimming with energy and guts.
Joan Jett has never been shy about professing her love for rock 'n roll, and with a record that rocks as hard as Unvarnished, it's easy to see that her dedication to the genre hasn't waned a single bit throughout her long, illustrious career. (Critics' Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars)