Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes - Trash It Up (1983)


Released in 1983

After three Asbury Park Steve Van Zandt-produced albums for the Epic label, followed by two more in the same style for Mercury, in 1983, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes decided t d wha so many acts did between 1978 and the end of the eighties - they produced a synthesiser-baked disco/dance album. Yes, exactly. Surely not? Elton John, Queen, David Bowie, Rod Stewart, ABBA, even The Rolling Stones were ding it, so why not? The results are, however, and this is being kind, patchy to say the least.


1. Trash It Up
2. Can't Stop Thinking Of You
3. Get Your Body On the Job
4. My Baby's Touch
5. The Beast Within
6. Ain't Gonna Eat My Heart Out Anymore
7. Slow Burn
8. Ms. Park Avenue
9. Bedtime                                                                

The title track is actually a good one - funky guitar lines, a convincing gritty rhythm, good hook line and a good vocal. "Can't Stop Thinking Of You" has a Chic-style guitar riff and lots of synth drums. It is ok, but just not really what you expect or indeed want from Southside Johnny. It has a good guitar solo in it, though. "Get Your Body On The Job" has a huge, deep, sonorous synthesiser backing and the instrumentation sounds like The Human League or Duran Duran. The lyrics are trite and the while thing is pretty disappointing, really. I remember buying this album at the time and trying to like it but deep down I just wanted that horn section to kick in but unfortunately there are no horns within a thousand miles of this. In the middle of this track you get a Chic meets Shalamar guitar riff. Totally fine when used by those excellent groups, but it just doesn't work on a Southside Johnny track, for me. Now, I don't mind diversification from artists like David Bowie, who are always changing styles, but poor old Southside just sounds self-conscious doing this, as if he would rather be somewhere else.  I don't want to hear Southside invoking us to "work our bodies".

The synthesiser and programmed drums introduces "My Baby's Touch", which has a soulful vocal from Southside but it is pretty lost beneath all the keyboards and electronic backing. "The Beast Within" has an ABBA-style classical-influenced intro before it goes all Queen on "Hot Space". It is pretty much a nadir in Southside's long, otherwise distinguished career. "Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Out Anymore" goes a bit heavy rock at times but it still pretty poor. "Slow Burn" is lifted out of the murk by a solid vocal from Southside, a punchy beat and some much-needed, badly-missed saxophone. Along with the title track, it is one of the album's better efforts. "Ms. Park Avenue" has some chunky guitar riffs, but is still blighted by the dominant synthesiser backing.

Thankfully, the closer, the romantic and soulful "Bedtime" reminds us what Southside Johnny was all about, and, despite the easy listening laid-back backing, has a typical, yearning Southside vocal. I recall at the time thinking "at last, thank goodness for that". Overall, however, this album was an unfortunate experiment best left in the vaults.


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