Paul Weller Brian Harrigan - Essay

Brian Harrigan

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Jam are a young three-piece band who have the potential of becoming the most commercially successful of the new wave outfits. I say new wave advisedly, since the Jam bear no relation to the mass conception of punk—whether it be quasi-anarchist politics or out and out mindless aggression.

The Jam are simply new, young and part of today's extensive musical reaction against the dinosaur bands who have dominated rock for the last eight years. Thus, they are new wave….

The Jam, comprehensive school educated, have played extensively in social clubs and dingy pubs for a considerable part of their two-year existence and the music they are making now represents the release of the frustration to which such a restricted environment must give birth.

On the evidence of ["In the City"], however, they've also controlled this outburst with a rare skill in musicians of their age and have produced tightly composed and performed songs. They've elected to include on this album just two of the half-dozen or more non-original songs they use in their normal repertoire—Larry Williams' "Slow Down" and Neal Hefti's "Batman Theme." The former is worthy of inclusion, the latter not….

[The Weller-composed songs] are anything but an embarrassment. In fact, he has a deft touch that, for me, places his material on a much higher plateau than almost anything his new wave contemporaries have attempted….

Apart from the title track, "In The City," which, to these ears, is the very best of the new wave anthems, the stand-out title is "Non-Stop Dancing," which is a medium-paced chunk of R&B boogie and features an aggressive choked-off vocal and even a reference in the lyrics to James Brown, which in itself underlines the band's commitment to the spirit of the early Sixties….

Understandably, many potential buyers will be put off this album because of the band's tenuous links with punk, but not giving it at least one listen would be a mistake. Lay down your prejudices and give them a try—they're guaranteed not to disappoint.

Brian Harrigan, "Who? It's the Jam," in Melody Maker (© IPC Business Press Ltd.), May 28, 1977, p. 23.