|The Jam In The City
(Polydor 2383 447)
The Jam have come a long way since I first saw them supporting the Sex Pistols at Dun-stable last October. Then they had an ill-fitting pianist, the bass guitarist had long hair, and the original numbers were outweighed by oldies like 'Little Queenie1 and the mid-60s soul standards that they still do.
Singer/guitarist Paul Weller definitely had stage presence, though, and the black suits and ties were there, and you could see that this group had the makings of something exciting and important... especially when they launched into a number called 'In The City'. Now, eight months later, the oldies are outnumbered by Paul Weller's own vital compositions, the pianist and Bruce Foxton's hair have been pruned away, and the group has improved tremendously. The first album is out, and it goes a long way towards living out this promise...but not all the way. It does, however, show that The Jam have grown into something original, exciting and quite different from the rest of the New Wave groups. The Jam readily acknowledge the influences from the past - particularly from the mid 60s mod era. The Who, Small Faces and The Creation spring to mind in the thrashing, pent up aggression of the music and the youth power stance of Paul Weller's words. They also remind me of The Flamin' Groovies, and that's not just 'cos they wear black suits on stage. The vocal style they've borrowed from the Mersey Beat Boom has been synthesised into the 70's in much the same way as The Groovies. But The Jam have got their own sound shaping up nicely, and it's loaded with intensity, with enough 70's awareness and technique injected to save this from the nostalgia wallow that it could have been. Paul Weller, who wrote ten of the twelve songs, has a way with a strong chorus and a killer hook,and has an urgent, chopping guitar style. If he's got something to say he'll say it, like in 'Away From The Numbers', which is about breaking away from the suburban hordes. But he's not afraid to let out a straightforward sock shaker like 'Non-stop Dancing' either. Some of the songs sound a bit unfinished, though. Like the group has been rushed into the studio a bit before time to satisfy the record company's desperate demand for some product to launch onto the red hot New Wave market. On the other hand, there's an attractive roughness about it. It's better than spending years in the studio and ending up sounding like Queen. No, this is a good record. Maybe it doesn't grab in the same places or with the same grip that some of the other New Wave offerings have, but I play it a lot. The album roars off with 'Art School', a racy opener which is fast and powerful and features a great morse code guitar ending. It sets the exhausting pace for 'Change My Address', which boasts an astounding middle break of crashing chords and sonic feedback scrapings like at the end of 'My Generation', and the stage fave 'Slow Down', which is a bit Hot Roddy, but shows off Weller's deadly rhythm slash technique well. After 'I Got By In Time' there's 'Away From The Numbers', which is vibrant, committed, anthem-like and the best track, apart from 'In The City'. Side One skids out on. the Batman theme, the only number from The Who's old repertoire on the album, ('Sad About Us', the Who number they do live, ain't here for some reason). 'In The City' kicks off side two. This'll always be The Jam's classic, the one they'll have to do onstage forever. It's got the lot this track - melody, drive, a bloody great riff - all delivered with maximum exuberance.
The side careers on through 'Sounds From The Street', 'Non Stop Dancing', 'Time For Truth' (isn't it?) and 'Takin' My Love', before coming to a crashing close with 'Bricks and Mortar', which boasts a great bit where Paul yells "Knock 'em down!", and proceeds to do just that with a shattering wall of feedback demolition. Oh yeah, I must mention The Jam's engine room of Bruce Foxton (bass) and Rick Buckler (drums), who is particularly outstanding. This ain't a perfect album ...well,perhaps it is and it's just me, (I haven't been feel ing too good lately). But it's a strong, promising debut, and I bet the second one will be a killer. The Jam have got more to offer than most...spread 'em and see!
(Kris Needs ZIG ZAG #73 June 1977)
Double A-side from the most commercially successful New Wave band. 'Peaches' owes more than a little to the R&B story raps The Downliners Sect were playing just as competently 15 years ago, and you might possibly have heard Chuck Berry steaming through a repertoire that contains at least a dozen numbers like 'Go Buddy Go'. Still, that really doesn't matter (does it?) because the New Wave are more concerned with principles and rattling the bones of Rock's apathetic elite. Good luck to 'em. But ripping off the old timers' material to do it strikes me as being as pointless as dragging a moribund body off it's death-bed and then beating it over the head with its own mattress. Inject new ideas, not old formulae! More alarming is the fact that they've made a special pressing of this record for the Beeb to play and changed certain offensive words for more innocent ones. For example "clitoris" magically becomes "bikini". So how can anybody destroy a system they presumably despise (and of which the Beeb has such frightening control) when they meekly conform to a redundant code of attitudes? Perhaps all The Stranglers want is airplay so they can become successful. But are they really more interested in fame than principles'!
(Tony Stewart NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS May 14th 1977)