Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Jam – This is the Modern World/ All Mod Cons

I found this single CD of the band’s 2nd and 3rd album at a reasonable price on Amazon – the only place I have seen these album combinations. This release has the cover artwork from both records as well as liner notes and even a couple of bonus tracks. Well worth the money!

The Jam’s second album, This is the Modern World, is a continuation of the band’s Who-flavored power-pop-mod-punk. Strong stuff, with great melodies and harmonies and some real intelligence behind it all.

The title song really does explode out of the speakers in a Who-like frenzy – a perfect start! “We don’t need no one to tell us what’s right or wrong!” More than punk – this is teenage angst at its best!

“London Traffic” is as frenetic as its subject, but still with harmony “oohs” keeping it from being all power and no pop. More Townshend-like chords populate “Standards”, while Paul Weller gets more political than Pete normally ever did. An actual ballad, “Life From a Window” is downright pretty but still has bursts of energy and is one of their more memorable tunes. “The Combine” is also extraordinarily melodic and highlights Weller’s Rickenbacker guitar tone.

Bassist Bruce Foxton wrote several of the songs here and “Don’t Tell Them You’re Sane” might not have the most sing-along melody, but has a great, edgy theme that all too many of us could relate to! Short, sweet and to the point, “In the Street, Today” is a quick burst before the poppier “London Girl” and its “lalalala’s” and odd lyrics.

More pure pop for punk people in another ballad-y tune, “I Need You (for Someone)”, shows their Beatle-esque influences. “Here Comes the Weekend” starts almost darkly – apparently reflecting the drudgery of the workweek – before climaxing in a joyous chorus. I hadn’t realized quite how many quieter songs Weller put on this record until I started to take it apart – “Tonight at Noon” is a ringing ballad and is another sweet and extremely catchy song.

The band then tears into their obligatory r’n’b cover, this time a convincing “In the Midnight Hour”. The record closed with “All Around the World”, which is right up their with their best mod-punk classics and a perfect bookend to “This is the Modern World”.

This CD release includes Foxton’s single “News of the World” with its rallying cry of “power pop!” Not their best, but a nice addition to this set.

I swear, it was years – if not decades – before I realized where they got their next album title, All Mod Cons. I had no idea that it was a British housing term! But, discovering that meant that it made a lot more sense and was actually cleverly funny. This purposeful British-ness certainly kept them from being more popular in America though, as happened to their heroes the Small Faces and Kinks.

The title cut, though, is a catchy, bass-driven mod-pop tune and a fine starter to their 3rd release. “To Be Someone” is also quite melodic – Weller definitely concentrates on more tune than power for this album. A darker, slower number, “Mr. Clean” sounds ominous, though I’m not sure who Paul is talking about.

This time out, instead of covering an r’n’b songs that the original mod bands would have covered, they cover the Kinks “David Watts” and in doing so, shine a light on a relatively obscure Davis classic.

Their quietest song to date, “English Rose” is a beautiful tune exposing Weller’s dedication to his country. This is his first fully acoustic performance and it is so romantic that it was dedicated to my (British heritage) wife-to-be during our combined bachelor/ bachelorette party!

More pure pop for “In the Crowd” before it turns into a feedback/backwards-guitar laden psychedelic ending. Side 2 of the album opened with a very Kinks-y “Billy Hunt” before moving into “It’s Too Bad”, another Beatle-esque song, complete with “She Loves You” references. “Fly” is a more complex composition, with multiple sections, from simple acoustic guitar to “Away From the Numbers” power-chord cops.

Harkening back to In the City, “The Place I Love” is pure early Jam, with catchy guitar licks and power chords and was nicely covered by Flop in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Continuing in this vein is “”A” Bomb in Wardour Street” with its jagged chords that play off of the drums and Weller’s Townshend-styled antics. The album closed with another complex, multi-part narrative in “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight”. It is a little disjointed, but it does come together at the end with a catchy chorus to make it memorable.

This CD collection ends with a bonus track of “The Butterfly Collector”. This is another moody piece that foreshadows some of Weller’s later works. Prominent keyboards demonstrate the obvious changes from his earlier work. Interesting, but quite different from the manic punk that he had been known for.

All in all, two great albums from this legendary band.

After I had written this, I realized that I had already done a briefer piece on the first 2 albums here.