Friday, November 09, 2007

The Jam - In The City and This Is the Modern World

Coming out of the punk movement to create a new mod scene, the Jam capitalized on punk’s infatuation with 60’s punk and garage and expanded upon this to include mod faves such as the Who, the Kinks and the Small Faces.

As a debut, In The City was a declaration of intent, with the sharp, matching suits, mod haircuts and Rickenbacker guitars. The songs were fueled with the new punk energy but were definitely an homage to the past. “Art School” is an obvious reference to the fact that so many of the 60’s leaders came from there. Mod themes abound in songs like “Away From the Numbers”, “Sounds From the Street” and, of course, “Non-stop Dancing”.

They also put their stamp on oft-covered 60’s tunes such as the Batman theme and “Slow Down”. Though in the latter they inexplicably change the lyrics to “if you want our love the best” instead of “want our love to last”. This has always bugged me and I could never understand why such an obvious line was rewritten.

I had the privilege of seeing the Jam shortly after the first album was released – unfortunately they were opening for Angel, a semi-progressive, KISS-styled band in a small town in Indiana! Needless to say, the vast majority of the audience despised them, causing them to walk off the stage at one point. But, they returned and still put on a fabulous show filled with wild energy, non-stop leaping around and plenty of aggression.

This Is the Modern World is their sophomore effort and still retains the edge of the first record, but with a little more songwriting refinement. This is not to say that they were wimping out – far from it! The title song blasts off like a desperate demand, not simply an observation. There are more varied emotion shown on this record, from “I Need You” to “Life From a Window” to the sublime “Tonight at Noon”.

Their ode to the 60’s on this outing is “In the Midnight Hour”, showing the mods’ love of soul as well as high energy r’n’r.

Personally, I think that even by the next record, All Mod Cons, while good, starts to show their decline. They were never bad per se, and I do like some of the later songs, but for me, these first two albums are by far their best.

And don’t even get me started on the abomination that was the Style Council! For some odd reason I was hanging out with some mods in the 80s and they put on one of the SC records and I literally thought it was a joke and starting laughing! It was such bad disco I couldn’t imagine anyone liking it, much less mods! Thankfully, Paul Weller got over that nonsense and returned to real songwriting in his solo career.

But for punk-fueled mod madness, check out these two records!


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