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Review: 'Joe Normal'
'Public Works'   

-  Label: 'New Jersey Phonograph/Bandcamp'
-  Genre: 'Rock' -  Release Date: '24.3.23.'

Our Rating:
Public Works is the latest album of New Jersey blue collar rock from Elizabeth Towns own Joe Normal who has written played and produced everything on this album. You may know Joe from his time with The Zero's or Dramarama, or from writing Not 4 Sale for Sammy Hagar among many other things he's done over the years.

The album opens with Small Town Factory a song about the daily trudge to work at a factory that employs half the town or more, so you feel like you have to go work there on the production line, no matter how little joy it brings to you, over the blue collar rock, when actually like his father you'd rather be singing like Mario Lanza in local bars and venues, as your dreams and desires get ground into the dust of all that toil.

Setbacks is tough love, burnished vocals of life's tribulations, that take away your hope, as things keep going wrong, how hard it is to get ahead, if you can't even keep your head above water. Your woman has left, you're drowning in debt and still more setbacks come to kick you while your down, the song reminds me a bit of Mott The Hoople.

New England Girl is a string laden love story for that New England peach your dreaming of, all the things you'll do to make her yours.
I Ain't No is about standing up for yourself on a slow acoustic song that makes clear he won't be pushed around, as a gentle harmonica part brings the love he craves, while trying to do good and be the best person he can, while never being venal enough to work for the government.

Living In The Borough is a great slice of the hard scrabble life, all the things that can go wrong in your local borough, as Joe makes clear he's just an average Joe Living In The Borough, with a feel that has a good slice of John Cougar Mellencamp to it, this is catchy as hell and is well stuck in my head since first hearing it on one of Joe's earlier singles.

Is it My Imagination isn't a disco single, but another slice of Blue-Collar rock fighting for a fair shake, with the love he craves, as well as the lover he has been chasing after.

Summer Jobs is all about having to take a Summer Job that you really don't want, so you turn up late reeking of booze and cigarettes, showing a bad attitude, but you need the cash, so you have to go and do what you have to do, but even on the first day you'd rather be anywhere but at work.

Warinanco Pond has a mid-70's easy listening ballad feel to the reminiscences of what goes on at the Pond, the sports Joe was never into, as the area is threatened with gentrification, redevelopment and how you fill in that pond and what do you do with that water, I hate to use this reference, but this reminds me a bit of Wings.

Ya Gotta Open Your Heart keeps things with that 70's feel, this is a light love song with epic edges. We Are The Normal is an anthem for our times as we all re-claim what it is to be considered normal, we don't need a Warm Leatherette to prove it, instead it's insistent catchy power pop rock song to sing along to, as we all try to get back to whatever it was we considered Normal before the pandemic while sounding a bit like the Psychedelic Furs.

The Unsung Heroes That Time Never Knew gives a string led shout out to all those people that help make life better but never make the headlines as the agents of change.

Bayway Refinery is an ode to one of New Jerseys industrial mainstays, what it's like to go and have a job at the Refinery, with a tune that has echoes of old field hollers, as he puts his name badge and safety gear on, he trudges through another days mind numbing repetition at the Refinery, for an industry that hopefully will be dying in the next few years, as we all have less to do with petrochemicals.

Find out more at https://joenormalusa.com/album/2408449/public-works https://www.facebook.com/JoeNormalUSA https://joenormalusa.com/?fbclid=IwAR08UrQ_jHf8jPA06HM8ybxy4gr4CphWbTWr2aNV1r3iOJSujgEkppAslQc https://joenormal.bandcamp.com/album/public-works

  author: simonovitch

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