The Jam: This Boy Shouts & This Boy Screams.
The first thing you have to fully appreciate when considering The Jam is: Paul Weller wasnt always a po-faced AOR purveyor of dad-rock. Paul Weller was once the greatest songwriter of his generation. Thats right, check your history books: DIRECTION REACTION CREATION.
We were hoping Mr Weller was going to join us for this feature, but he ignored our interview request, dismissed our questions & generally kept up his strange habit of refusing to acknowledge his (debt to the) past. This is a great shame, but not a complete surprise. Although Weller has recently begun to play out his own personal Jam favourites, he remains tight lipped about his roll in the punk rock revolution that shook a nation to its very foundation.
A recent diatribe by CTCLs Chris Houghton entitled, Why I Hate The Jam, was the fuel to this particular fire. Not only was Mr Houghton wrong, his generational-insecurity indication lights flashing like R2D2 having a coronary seizure, his argument was immature, digitally re-mastered & conceptually flawed. In truth, there really hasnt been a British band as good as The Jam since, well, The Jam (analysis of more recent Paolo Hewitt endorsed new mods, Oasis, will illustrate radically the gulf between Weller & Gallagher as songwriters, role models & generational commentators). Pretentious two-bob cunts like The Libertines can allude to anything they want but they will never make 18 consecutive classic 45s or an LP any where near as perfect as Setting Sons.
The Jam used loud guitars but were never lazy enough to wander into Metal. The Jam loved dance music & incorporated its ability to move feet into their sound without ever resorting to being remixed by some trend endorsed producer or hip for two weeks DJ. The Jam were in love with the past, the present & had a firm investment in the future. How many bands can you say that about today? The Jam inspired a whole generation to look beyond the limits of the art school punk elite & move towards a new future of integrated racial harmony (it was still an ideal then). The Jam were the only first wavers still radical, topical & relevant enough to walk hand in hand with the multi-cultural wave of Two-Toners when they arrived at the turn of the 80s. The Jam were the biggest British band to come out of punk rock. Period.
The Jams back catalogue is available on dusty old vinyl from all good record fairs. Its also available on shiny new digitally re-mastered CDs from your local HMVirginMegaStore Concession.
The Jam Investment Guide:
In The City: The proto-punk of The Whos My Generation 12 years on. What In The City lacked in contemporary punk rock attitude, it more than made up for in soul stomp energy. Weller had been bitten by the Sex Pistols & The Clash. In The City was his call to arms & a valid bid to get involved.
Modern World: Dismissed as a remake of In The City on inception. The band were treading water, so they said. Today those criticisms seem churlish. Modern World was recorded mere months down the line from In The City & stands the test of time with honour.
All Mod Cons: Reputedly recorded & scrapped a couple of times over, this difficult third LP proved to be the making of The Jam. A perfectly paced LP rammed to the hilt with quality compositions, All Mod Cons raised The Jam above their stuttering contemporaries, upwards to the stellar heights that awaited them.
Setting Sons: The masterpiece. Setting Sons was The Jams benchmark. From the opening Girl On The Phone to the closing cover of Heatwave, Setting Sons simply rattled with intent. By 1979 The Jam were deservedly the biggest band in Britain & Weller had been rightly elevated to spokesman for his generation. No one has filled those long abandoned shoes adequately since.
Singles 1977-79 CD Box Set: The Jam were one hell of a singles band, if not the greatest British singles band of all time. This box contains their first 9 single releases in repro sleeves with a booklet & a numbered ltd print.
Singles 1980-82 CD Box Set: This is an essential purchase, if only to get your hands on Going Underground: 1980s best 45 & The Jams most effective political statement. By the time we reach A Town Called Malice its difficult to tell where The Jam end & where The Style Council begin, but its worth the walk in the end. 9 x repro CD mini singles, complete with booklet & numbered ltd print.
Direction Reaction Creation Box Set: 5 CD set, complete with expansive 86 page booklet & a forward by Paolo Hewitt. 117 tracks, 22 previously unreleased cuts, liner notes, gig list, discography, memorabilia & rare photos. Every punky mod should own a copy.
The Jam At The BBC 2 x CD (Ltd 3 x CD): 3 x Peel sessions, 3 x complete Radio 1 In Concerts from 1977, 1979 & 1981 & 4 cuts from Studio B15 in 1981.
Go buy. Bye, bye.
Jean Encoule trakMARX.com Nov 2002