This is a gem of a package: The Jam’s six classic albums presented as individual vinyl-replica CDs, released to mark the 30th anniversary of the band’s split in 1982. I can’t believe it’s 30 years! Emerging from the punk scene, The Jam had a massive impact on the singles chart at a time when singles really mattered. In their short career they gained a passionate following and put together some excellent albums that became increasingly diverse. This isn’t a definitive collection though. Many of The Jam’s chart hits were not album tracks. Instead, here we have a faithful reproduction of the studio long players that defined their career.
In The City
The debut from 1977 is heavy with punk/pre-punk references with a healthy nod to the ‘60’s. Spiky, chiming Rickenbackers, frenetic bass and Steve Marriot haircuts. ‘In The City’ remains incandescent. Weller’s vocal style was still developing and the sharp lyrical observations of ‘Art School’ and ‘Takin’ My Love’ and ‘I’ve Changed My Address’ are simply spat out. ‘Slow Down’ is straight out of the Dr Feelgood songbook, circa ‘She Does It Right’, even down to the choppy lead/rhythm guitar style of Wilko Johnson.
This Is The Modern World
The follow up to ‘In The City’ includes hit single ‘The Modern World’, which easily stands the test of time. Though the album is very patchy with a couple of Bruce Foxton penned howlers in ‘London Traffic’ and ‘Don’t Tell Them Your Sane’. ‘Life From a Window’ on the other hand, and ‘Tonight At Noon’ hint at a direction Weller would take in future albums with warming slices of pop introspection. However, much of the album lacks the energy, drive and honest bile of their debut.
All Mod Cons
After a stuttering start when Weller and Foxton’s first batch of tracks were allegedly rejected, ‘All Mod Cons’ in the end became their best-received album. Weller’s song-writing achieved a new level of maturity and his vocal delivery more subtle and varied. The melodies on ‘The Place I Love’ for instance, add an extra dimension. Whilst more pop influenced than either of the earlier albums, a hard edge remains. ‘’A’ Bomb In Wardour Street’ is angry, and even now the first-person narrative of a vicious beating on ‘Down In The Tube Station At Midnight’ sends shivers down the spine. The album is heavily Kinks-influenced and their version of David Watts is electrifying compared to the bubbly feel of the original. Foxton’s bass is prominent throughout the album and finds its real home at the core of The Jam’s sound here (for instance on ‘To Be Someone…’ and ‘Billy Hunt’). Anthemic stuff.
Whilst All Mod Cons is arguably the definitive Jam album, it is Setting Sons where the band’s sound reaches its full maturity. The composition, production and delivery are all very assured. Foxton’s rumbling bass, Rick Buckler’s powerhouse drumming and the layered Rickenbacker chime are augmented by splashes of keyboard (‘The Eton Rifles’), changes in pace and direction (‘Little Boy Soldiers’) and fully-worked string arrangements (the wonderful ‘Smithers-Jones’.) Barely a duff track.
1980’s ‘Sound Affects’ saw the band move away from their classic sound. Opener ‘Pretty Green’ has a magnificent, pile-driving Foxton bass line, ‘Monday’ swirls with psychedelia, ‘Start! continues the Beatles theme with its ‘Taxman’ references and throughout the album Weller hits a register not tested in any of his previous work. ‘That’s Entertainment’ remains a standout. Both acoustic and caustic, the documenting of mundane working class lives still sounds fresh. The album includes notes of swing, jazz and funk, whilst retaining a spine of punk, rock and diamond-edged guitar.
The band’s 1982 studio album was their last together and first to go to number one. Continuing the divergence from the classic Jam sound of ‘Sound Affects’, ‘The Gift’ explores more soul and funk references. In that sense it presages Weller’s subsequent project with The Style Council. ‘Town Called Malice’ is a great single. But this is a million miles away from ‘In The City’. More traditional slabs of Jam guitar and angst like ‘Running On The Spot’ and ‘The Gift’ are more about where Weller had been than where he was headed.
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Power Plays w/c 16 September (Mon-Fri)
BLOCK BUSTER Losing Gravity (Frontiers)
WATCH ME BREATHE Don’t Think I Haven’t Thought About It (The Label Group/INGrooves)
FIRES OF FREYA Take A Bow (indie)
BLACK STAR RIDERS Underneath The Afterglow (Nuclear Blast)
STOMPIN’ HEAT Shiny Curly Red Hair (indie)
Featured Albums w/c 16 September (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 THE DEFIANTS Zokusho (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 CORELEONI II (AFM Records)
14:00-16:00 TONY McLOUGHLIN True Native (Fuego)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
BAD COMPANY Company Of Strangers (1995)
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