The Sound of the Jam

by: The Jam

If you already own the long out of print Greatest Hits set, then there's no real reason to invest in Sound of the Jam, which, predictably, repeats the majority of that program. However, for latecomers this provides an excellent overview of the output of one of Britain's most distinctive and influential new wave bands. The album's 20 tracks proceed in chronological order, documenting the Jam's progression from sharp, aggressive mod-influenced rock ("Modern World," "In the City") to explicitly Motown-influenced post-punk R&B ("Town Called Malice"), with frequent forays into surreal balladeering ("Butterfly Collector") and ambiguous love songs ("English Rose"). The band's sociopolitical stance is not always comprehensible, especially to American ears (and particularly to American ears born somewhere around the time these songs were written), but it clearly has something to do with populist politics, open-hearted romance, and some kind of gentle socialism. That such sentiments could translate into reliably tight, beautifully constructed guitar pop with a serrated edge is a testament both to frontman Paul Weller and his fellow bandmembers. Weller would later go on to make records of an increasingly unpredictable and inconsistent nature with the Style Council, but as Sound of the Jam makes clear, his first band got the best of his prodigious early talent. Highly recommended. [The British version of this album includes six additional tracks.] ~ Rick Anderson

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