Album Of The Week - The Jam - In The City
We're keeping with the British again this week with a return to The Jam and their reckless 1977 debut In The City.
Having covered the criminally under-rated Sound Affects last year, it makes sense to return to Woking's finest once again. Unlike where that album features a more refined sound on the likes of Start! and Monday, In The City shows The Jam at full pelt, rocking out of the gate with a brilliant attitude and raw sound that a band hasn't been able to match since.
Opening two songs Art School and I've Changed My Address sum up what the band are about immediately. Both are fast-paced romps on completely different subject matters, with the latter especially capturing the band's sound perfectly. At three-and-a-half minutes in length, it's one of the record's longest offerings, but features Paul Weller's properly snarling vocal teamed with Bruce Foxton's banging bassline and Rick Buckler's thumping drums. There's a small break in the song's middle that is a reminder of key influences The Who and in particular, Buckler's drumming sounds almost as crazy as Keith Moon's with some over-the-top cymbal usage and absolutely crashing backbeat.
The album isn't all Weller's own work and also makes use of a couple of clever covers to beef out a set that wouldn't have been a million miles away from their gigs in the London clubs in the late seventies. First comes the Larry Williams-penned Slow Down, also covered by The Beatles in the early sixties, but this version's been punked up a bit, with Weller's swaggering vocal and Foxton's bouncing bassline making this version a standout, not least on the instrumental break and solo that winds the clock back at least fifteen years. The second of these two covers is the Batman Theme which at first glance would appear to be an odd inclusion, but it's worth noting that the definitive mod band The Who, as well as the likes of The Kinks too covered this. To be honest, it wouldn't have been uncommon to hear such popular themes on the setlists of bands playing the London clubs, so, in all due seriousness, it's a pretty timely addition to the record's listing, and is also a nice little rendition too.
As much as the reckless punk is this album's bread and butter, where Weller's songwriting and the whole band's sound seems the tightest and at its best is on some of the slower numbers. The likes of Away From The Numbers portray that underneath a brutal laddish exterior on the cover, Paul Weller and co. are a lot more grown-up than they would appear with the graffiti on the bathroom tiles. As a song, sure it's got that signature Jam backing, but it's at a slower pace and sounds a tad mellower, which aids in portraying The Jam as not just a bunch of one-trick ponies. A little bit further down the track list comes Sounds From The Street which continues in a similar vein to its predecessor with a mellowed punk sound, showcasing a different side to the band - the mod side to them as opposed to the rock. As much as its got this 'angry young man' undertone to it with a gritty guitar note and harsh cymbals on the kit, Sounds From The Street has this great rhythmic quality to it, paving the way for the more R&B-oriented sound of their later work and Weller's later career with The Style Council and on his own.
The back-end of In The City returns to the beat-oriented and angry lad sound of the record's start with tracks such as Takin' My Love and the closing Bricks And Mortar. To any Beatles fans, these are particularly appealing tracks as they echo the band's Hamburg era in the early sixties with that simple and blunt rock 'n' roll sound of the late fifties pioneered by the likes of Little Richard and Chuck Berry. The best of the two is undoubtedly Bricks And Mortar with its fantastic groove and a slightly different sound to its predecessor featuring a clever message about the problems with senseless demolition of clubs and pubs that are prominent in the lives of young people in the late seventies to make way for office blocks or new-build housing that have been commissioned by the rich without regard for their rich past. This marked the beginning of Weller's swipes at governments in his songs and his place as one of this country's finest ever songwriters.
In The City really is an album that spawned one of this country's finest bands with one of the most admired sounds out there. To some it might just be a noise, but to others, it's the noise of a generation - a record that soundtracked people's lives and became a key part of their identity. That reckless sound threaded throughout the record is what makes it so great in the first place, and when combined with Weller's clever songwriting and brilliant messages, it's certainly hard to find a better album of this genre.
If you want to pick up a copy of this great album, I've leave an Amazon link here: https://amzn.to/3brnhnh
Or, here's a Spotify link below:
More musical magnificence to come next week!