December 28, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Jam

The Jam are arguably the most famous mod band ever, perhaps more so than their biggest influence, The Who.

Alongside The Sex Pistols and The Clash, the band's first claim to fame came in 1977 as they headed up the inaugral class of British punk rockers. Fronted by Paul Weller, the band eschewed the typical punk rock ethos of destruction and violence, opting instead to wrap themselves in a more traditional British angst. Initially, nothing suited that better than the power pop styled R&B of their 1960s heroes like The Who, The Kinks, The Small Faces and The Creation.

The Jam took ths sixties R&B sound and fed it through the punk rock era they lived in. Out came the beginnings of the mod revival in the form of 1977's In The City. It was an album full of blistering power pop anthems and kick started The Jam's rise to become the most dominant force in British music for the next five years. The title single was the first of a stunning 17 straight top 40 singles including nine in the top 10 and four #1 hits. Few bands have had such phenomenal success in the charts for such an extended period.

Their first three albums all fit neatly in that same superfueld R&B power pop vein and are the most representative of Weller's infatuation with Pete Townsend's style and Ray Davies lyrical voice. By 1979's Setting Sons, the band was moving slowly towards a more soulful sound, but keeping to the melodic power pop that they'd always embraced. At the same time Weller's songs were maturing, as well as becoming darker and more cynical.

The Jam probably became the definitive mod band when they fully embraced a serious soul approach to their music. Sadly, that came at the band's end and so there's only one full album, The Gift, and one EP, Beat Surrender that benefitted from the evolved sound. But those two releases delivered some of the band's finest work. The Gift has the full on funky soul of the instrumental "Circus", the soul floorshaker "Precious", the jazzy soul of "Trans Global Express", and of course the amped up Motown sound of "Town Called Malice".

Their last release, Beat Surrender, delivered five fantastic tracks of soul laden power pop unamtched by anything the band had done previously. Three were covers that offered new and interesting interpretations of the soul classics "War!", "Move On Up", and "Stoned Out Of My Mind". The other two were Weller originals and fit with the classics like hand in glove, the swank sounding melancholy of "Shopping" and the swaggering soul anthem, "Beat Surrender". With those two tracks the writing was on the wall for where Weller was headed next: the full on mod soul sound of The Style Council. In fact, Weller had the band record an early version of the upbeat and bouncy soul number "Solid Bond In Your Heart" which was later one of The Style Council's early hits.

The Jam -- Saturday's Kids

The Jam -- Circus

The Jam -- Going Underground