Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Take the militant politics of The Clash, add Elvis Costello's melody writing and top with the musical pyrotechnics of The Who and what do you have? The Jam, of course, the hands down best band of the late '70's-early '80's. Unapologetically English, The Jam never broke through in the States like The Clash, or even Elvis. An infamous tour as opener for Blue Oyster Cult ended any real attempts at reaching out to an American audience. By the time MTV rolled along, The Jam were on their last legs, playing the soul-funk sound that leader Paul Weller would enter fully in his Style Council period. The video for "The Bitterest Pill" is fun, I'll give them that.

Weller, songwriter and guitarist, led the group with style and guts, pushing through serious workingman, anti-establishment politics with skilled playing, and the rhythm section of Bruce Foxton on bass and Rick Buckler on drums rival any trio. Yeah, I'm talking to you Zeppelin!

Pulling 1980's Sound Affects from the stacks today I was jolted back to the consistent brilliance of the band. Each song on the LP is magnificent, a difficult achievement at best. Even Sgt. Pepper had the woefully sucky "She's Leaving Home (to be fair, the mono version is far superior). Preceded by a few months by the explosive single "Going Underground," Sound Affects starts with a ripped off "Taxman" bassline but proceeds to distinguish itself on its own merits. "That's Entertainment," a signature tune for the band and Weller catches the drab and depressing Britain with slices of tawdry daily life, wrapped in an unforgettably catchy tune radiantly strummed on acoustic guitar. The evils of finance, and the resulting greed and class divisions get their due in songs like "Pretty Green" and "Man in the Corner Shop." While I did love The Style Council and there political danceability, Weller never combined message and music as well as he does on this LP.
For some of you, this is old news. For many, The Jam are a still undiscovered pleasure. Go forth and discover, now!

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