Friday 21 September 2012


Received an e-mail from informing me that the 30th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition will be released in November:
Universal Music Store
(same product - the Universal link provides more detail about the package)
Looks interesting, but pricey - I may settle for the 2 Disc Deluxe Edition (much like the Sound Affects set released a couple of years ago

So, what better way to spend the last few days than immersing myself in the world of The Jam (and then some Style Council and Paul Weller's solo stuff)

The simplest way of 'doing' The Jam is to listen through the "Direction, Reaction, Creation" Box Set - this gives a start to finish run through of all the singles & albums, plus an extra disc of unreleased stuff (add to this the "Extras" and you've pretty much got the lot).
But thats too easy, so I'm going to do it by (a) playing each album (b) a run through of "Snap!" to get the missed singles, and selected B-Sides, and (c) playing the albums in order of release

In The City
You hear the opening couple of chords, a shout of "1-2-3-4", and your off.
The opening track 'Art School' is an immediate high energy adrenaline rush (I promise not to use that phrase again ).  Played at high speed, full of energy and bullishness - it never lets up throughout the album.
The music on the album is a combination of Punk, Mod, Motown, Soul and a dash of The Beatles, and the choice of covers is interesting, and a nod to their influences - 'Slow Down' previously covered by The Beatles, and 'Batman Theme' previously covered by The Who
In summary, not a duff track on it - doesn't let up from start to end.

This Is The Modern World
Released in the same year, it does appear on first listen that the band struggled with this one.  It sounds laboured in places, like they have no new ideas or direction.  You know how a double album can start to run out of steam halfway through side 3? well, listening to "In The City" followed by "The Modern World" is a bit like that. But stick with it, repeated listening bears fruit.
The opening track ('Modern World'), 'Standards', 'In The Street Today' and 'London Girl' sound like they would've sat comfortably on the first album, and the cover of 'In The Midnight Hour' has got all the urgency and energy that you expect if performed live.
Special mention for 'Life From A Window' - an early dreamy, melancholic Paul Weller, and it (in my opinion) a great lost Jam track and definitely worth a listen (in fact, it's just down there )

All Mod Cons
What is there to say about the album that heralds this unadulterated classic?
After the relative failure of The Modern World, this album could've been called "Shit Or Bust".
There was a point in the early recording when Paul Weller lost interest in writing, resulting in a batch of songs being rejected by the producer ("This is shit" were apparently his words).
The new batch of songs (assuming the above is true) were more mature, narrative than on the previous albums.  And in one case deeply personal ('English Rose').
You get cynicism towards record companies and the music business ('All Mod Cons' and 'To Be Someone'). venom against what you don't want to become ('Mr Clean') and possibly the most evocative, vivid, best first-person narrative song Paul Weller (or indeed anyone) has ever written ('Down In A Tube Station At Midnight').
Its often been hailed as a classic, and rightly so.  If you own just one Jam album, then it should be this one.

Setting Sons
Where do you go after the high point that was 'All Mod Cons'?
Answer: back in the studio to produce an album that is equal, if not better, than its predecessor.
Originally conceived as a concept album about growing up and, as often happens, growing apart.  The original idea never came to fruition but many of its component parts can be heard on the album ('Thick As Thieves', 'Little Boy Soldiers', 'Wasteland' and 'Burning Sky' - 'Private Hell' and 'Smithers-Jones' also (sort of) fit the story, but thats probably more coincidence than reality.
What you have here is a tougher sounding record than 'All Mod Cons' - it also includes the bands first Top 10 Single ('Eton Rifles' (beloved of David Cameron (apparently?)), but is let down by the ropey cover version of 'Heatwave', which just doesn't seem to fit with the flow of the record.

Sound Affects
This is the sound of a band at the top of their game.  It takes the previous sound and adds more to the whole.  There's a nod to funk, soul, jazz and a touch of the avant-garde throughout the album (or at least to these ears anyway).  Paul Weller described the album as a cross between "Off The Wall" and "Revolver" - as throwaway, media sound-bite descriptions go, its pretty close to reality.
Starting with the huge bass rumble of 'Pretty Green', and than into the dreamy, Byrds-y jangle of 'Monday', you're hooked and will stay for the next 40 minutes.
(although 'Music For The Last Couple' just gets in the way for me.  I'm sure it has a purpose, but I've never fully understood it)
You can't talk about "Sound Affects" without mentioning 'Thats Entertainment' - a song so simple in its construction, even a ham-fisted guitarist like me can play it (G- Em-Am-F).  It may be simple to play, but it is a song that surely no-one can ever tire of hearing?
I thought I had everything The Jam had released, and then last year the Deluxe Edition of "Sound Affects" added a version of 'Waterloo Sunset'

The Gift
The bands last release, and more new influences are on show.  The record has more of a soul revue/northern soul vibe - the addition of horns & keyboards fill the sound offering a different Jam than expected
The "classic Jam" songs are here ("Happy Together", "Carnation", "Just Who Is The 5 O'Clock Hero?"), "Town Called Malice" moves into Northern Soul territory, and theres the funky, extended workouts of "Precious" and "Trans Global Express".  On the whole, a fitting end to a recording career.

It was announced in 1982 that the band would cease at the end of the year.  Paul Weller is 23.
That is quite a legacy: 18 singles (including 4 Number 1s) and 6 albums plus a live album - this catalogue, and the affection that fans held for it, ensured that the band may be gone, but not forgotten.
Was it right they split up when they did? Yes - they were at the top and went out with a number 1 album and a number 1 single with their last release.   They could've slogged on, but there was a danger of repeating themselves, and possibly sullying their legacy by releasing an album like The Clash's "Cut The Crap" (which has two extraneous words in the title)

But, there's more ...

Dig The New Breed
Released in December 1982 as a parting gift, this live album contains a selection of live recordings from the bands career.  The performances show a growth in both confidence and sound, and was also (at the time) the only Jam album that contained "Going Underground" and "Start"

10 months later "Snap" hit the shelves.  The album is a compilation of singles, B-Sides and selected album tracks.  I may be biased, because it was the first compilation album I bought, but it is not far short being 'the perfect compilation'.  This is the only album to contain the studio versions of : 'All Around the World', 'News of the World', 'Strange Town', 'When You're Young', 'Going Underground','Funeral Pyre', 'Absolute Beginners', 'The Bitterest Pill' and 'Beat Surrender' - How many other bands can have 9 singles in a 5 year career which are not culled from albums?  And lets not forget the B-Sides - these weren't on albums either, but were the virtual equal of anything that was.

Paul Weller returned in The Style Council - their early singles sounded to be an extension of sound of "The Gift" (indeed "Solid Bond In Your Heart" was originally demoed by The Jam, and considered as the final single"), but I personally never really got into them.  Maybe it was the more relaxed, soul/jazz sounds being made which just didn't appeal.  In truth, I think it was a combination of 'Long Hot Summer' and Red Wedge that killed it for me.  Although, 'Walls Come Tumbling Down' remains one of my favourite Paul Weller songs.
Of the albums, I've only got "The Singular Adventures Of ..." & "The Sound Of ...", the tracklisting of each covers similar ground.  To be honest, I only bought "The Singular Adventures Of ..." because "The Sound Of ..." didn't have 'Solid Bond In Your Heart' on it.

The Style Council's last album wasn't released by their record company, and Paul Weller took a break of some 18 months.  Paul Weller returned to touring in 1990/91 as The Paul Weller Movement, and then the release of his first solo album in 1992 marked the beginning of his solo career.
Space and time (and lack of interest on the readers part, I'm sure) prevent me from continuing with a review of Paul Weller's solo records - maybe another day

Life From A Window
(to show that 'The Modern World' wasn't as bad as many people thought/still think)

Carnaby Street
(representing the "lost" B-Sides)

Thats Entertainment
(No introduction necessary)

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