Thursday, June 14, 2018

Kick Out the Style, Bring Back the Jam

Every bit as influential as The Clash, The Jam is the most significant forgotten British band (despite 18 consecutive top 40 singles; four No. 1's). Even in the U.K., their impact and sway is overlooked, even dismissed (meanwhile the insufferable hype over Oasis remains pervasive). The Jam are as British as Heinz baked beans, and as essential.

Comparison to the mods (a youth faction that, like the Teddy Boys, isn't a part of American cultural literacy) is inevitable, yet the Jam were far from a mod cover band, they were a punk reflection of it, and All Mod Cons (AM7) and Setting Sons (AM6) are exposes on a troubled Thatcher-era London. All Mod Consin particular, is a frightening album of urban decay and decline, an atmospheric trip around the forsaken midnight city streets told through punk and pop, acoustic and mod influences. This was the modern world.

Behind me/ Whispers in the shadows, gruff blazing voices/ Hating, waiting/ "Hey boy" they shout,/ "have you got any money?"/ And I said, "I've a little money and a take away curry,/I'm on my way home to my wife./She'll be lining up the cutlery,/You know she's expecting me/Polishing the glasses and pulling out the cork"/ And I'm down in the tube station at midnight.

Not released on any album, "Going Underground" was the Jam's first No. 1 single. It went straight to No. 1 and stayed there three weeks. The Kinks with switchblades, "Going Underground" combines a heady, irresistible admix of aggression and melody in a way unique to punky British new wave; this is Weller & Co. at the top of their game.

Even a cursory listen to Sound Affects (AM7) will strengthen the seemingly endless Revolver comparisons, but these are superficial at best. Whereas Revolver is generally an optimistic jawn, Sound Affects is claustrophobic and urban, not as inventive as Revolver but still very, very stylish. Sound Affects doesn't have quite the bite or the topical sense of All Mod Cons, yet with the exception of "That's Entertainment," the album’s standout track, this is a gritty post-punk affair.

Two lovers kissing amongst the scream of midnight./ Two lovers missing the tranquility of solitude./ Getting a cab and traveling on buses,/ Reading the graffiti about slashed seat affairs … That's entertainment...

Haven't heard The Jam, check these out first: "The Modern World," "English Rose," "David Watts" (Kinks cover), "Down in a Tube Station at Midnight," "Going Underground," "Start," "That's Entertainment" and "The Bitterest Pill." But why haven't you? Doesn't even make any sense.