UMC [Release date 20.10.17]
Punk/Mod Revival band formed in the early 70s and found fame when they signed to Polydor in 1977. That pivotal year saw them release two albums and start their run of a number of hit singles before they split in 1982.
Fronted by vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Paul Weller, the band’s classic line-up also featured bassist Bruce Foxton and drummer Rick Buckler.
This 5 disc box set features that year, 1977, in its entirety, with both original albums, a disc of demos (many previously unreleased), a live set (John Peel sessions and a previously unreleased live show from Nashville).
There’s a strong Pete Townsend and Wilko Johnson influence to Weller’s guitar on the debut album In The City. The title track was a hit single. There’s a high octane pub rock feel mixed with uptempo r’n’b and Mod of The Kinks and The Who There’s teenage angst in the crash bank wallop of I’ve Changed My Address, and the cover of the Batman theme tune shows a punk touch too. The album is full of energy that struck a chord at the time, and the title track hit the singles charts too.
The second album This Is The Modern World was very slightly more polished, just a tad less rough’n’ready, but the roots are there. It is slightly moodier too. Again it was much acclaimed at the time, and a couple of tracks remind me of what Bram Tchaikovsky was doing at the time too. There’s an excellent and very energetic version of In The Midnight Hour, written by Steve Cropper and Wilson Pickett, like the Batman theme of the first album it’s one everyone will recognise and it’s seriously made their own here. A non album single is added as a bonus to boot.
Disc 2 is a selection of (largely previously unreleased) demos; I’m not a Jam collector so it’s hard to comment, I wouldn’t call them essential listening unless you’re the kind of fan this box set is aimed at.
Things get a lot more interesting on disc 4, with a live John Peel session and then a full live show, which covers a love of live material and even more energy, and so much is previously unreleased, it’s the kind of disc that makes a box of a specific period feel all the more complete.
To finish is the live DVD, which includes a TV appearance or two. Again, well worth a watch, even if you only watch it once, it sits next to disc 4 nicely.
The band’s best known chart hits came a year or two later, and if done in the right stages similar catalogue explorations would work well there too, but this is a great set and one for Jam fans and more. ****1/2
Review by Joe Geesin
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