From D. Geller and T. Hibbert, Billy Joel: An Illustrated Biography, London, 1985, p 88: “Billy’s intentions in making Glass Houses were clear. He was sick of people thinking he was MOR and wanted to “throw a rock at the image people have of me as a mellow balladeer.”…Billy said: “we’ve been playing rock and roll for years and years and years. This album is hard rock heavy. No balance between the ballads and the harder stuff.” Billy was excited about making rock, nothing but rock.”
Glass Houses is not hard rock by any stretch of the imagination, but it does sound like Joel had been taking notice of new wave bands like The Cars, and he moves away from the expansive urban suites of his late seventies albums into delivering straightforward pop songs.
Joel takes on the persona of a hormone crazed adolescent, such as on the forgotten ‘All For Leyna’, which is one of his best singles, while the ridiculous ‘Close to the Borderline’ entertains with the promise that “We’re gonna all go to hell/With the next big meltdown.” ‘Sometimes a Fantasy’ and the sublime ‘Sleeping With the Television On’ are fun hooky slices of pop, while the closer ‘Through the Long Night’ is a subtle charmer. There’s one corny French ballad, which undermines his efforts to position himself as hard rock, and the two best known singles (‘You May Be Right’, ‘It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me’) are among his weaker radio hits from his prime years.
But there are lots of fun, hook filled tunes on Glass Houses nonetheless, as it has a lighter touch than most of Joel’s work.