Paul Weller Dan Oppenheimer - Essay

Dan Oppenheimer

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

On their debut album, In the City, the Jam … present 12 tracks without a ballad among them, tracks that come from the center of a very live, alive, lively performing band…. The band's power and flair as a working-class trio is attractive; even more important, Weller's lyrics are as intriguing on paper and in your head as they are between chord changes….

They are dealing with the problem of authority and what the hell to do about it, but so subtly they're veritably Zen Buddhist compared to those who would batter down walls by knocking their heads against them. You see, anyone serious about trashing fat cats does so by simply ignoring those fucks and going their own way. It's the antithesis of the graffiti truism: "If it's illegal, it's fun." If you believe the scrawl, it follows that you won't do what you're allowed to do and that you must do what you ain't. The Jam realize that angry young men are no less boring than they ever were. But to build great music because things ain't right—yes, indeed….

They have a way with words …, as in Weller's lyric for ["I Got By in Time"], which show him to be conscious of self but not preoccupied with it: "Saw a girl that I used to know / I was deep in thought at the time / Didn't recognize her face at first / Because I was prob'ly looking at mine … we were young, we were full of ideas …"…

[In] "Time for Truth," Weller takes on a certain Uncle Jimmy, who may be a straw man or a real character in his life. Weller hints that this character is just another poor fuck, but says with finality, "You lost, Uncle Jimmy, you lost." And then he growls, "What ever happened to the great empire?"

My God, that's what I always wanted to know. I could care less about glue and safety pins.

Dan Oppenheimer, "Jam Shakes Like This" (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice and the author; copyright © The Village Voice, Inc., 1977), in The Village Voice, Vol. XXII, No. 35, August 29, 1977, p. 73.