Review Summary: That’s entertainment…
The Jam were one of the greatest and most popular punk era bands, and nowhere is their charm and talent better witnessed than on the remastering of their perfect compilation album, Snap!
. Outside of the UK, The Jam’s name probably doesn’t mean much, but back on British soil, Paul Weller and co.’s mod-influenced brand of punk is remembered fondly by a slew of defining singles and albums that critics still revere to this day.
The reason Snap!
comes especially recommended for neophytes (or indeed existing fans), is because it rapidly and thrillingly tells the story of this seminal English group, taking in essential non-album singles, B-sides and album cuts to tell the tale in full. And until 2006, Snap!
remained a 1983 vinyl, with the only way of catching a glimpse of its concise delights on compact disc format by picking up the truncated Compact Snap!
. Part of what made Snap!
so worthwhile was its efficiency – containing just the right amount of material, sitting in the sweet spot between too skimpy and too indulgent. So to witness the full album, restored to its original chronological sequencing, is a delight; the remastering serving as the cherry atop an already delicious cake.
It’s not just the layout or remastering that makes Snap!
as good as it is, but something rather simpler – the music itself. Snap!
choses the right tracks, puts them in the right order and picks just enough of them to educate, satisfy and save from smothering. Era-defining non-album cuts, such as the fiery ‘Going Underground’ and pretty B-sides (on a par with some of the band’s A-sides, they were that strong) like ‘The Butterfly Collector’ are included alongside all the essential album cuts, providing a neat and endlessly efficient method of collecting all The Jam material a non-dedicated fan could ever need.
The group’s early, punky singles, which were more polished and hook-laden than their contemporaries, roar with a youthful energy, as Weller belts out informed tales of urban living and the media (‘In The City’, ‘News of the World’). The group soon evolved and became sharper and more pop-wise, as Snap!
moves on to influence-baring tracks such as the straight-ahead but joyful cover of The Kinks’ ‘David Watts’, the witty environment portrait of ‘Down in the Tube Station at Midnight’, and the gorgeously mellow ‘English Rose’ – an alternative national anthem if one were ever worthy.
By the time the second disc starts The Jam were all guns blazing – the angular post-punk addictiveness of ‘The Eton Rifles’ and ‘Going Underground’; the perfect acoustic portrait of dissatisfied youth life, ‘That’s Entertainment’, managing to be both fiery and refined; the ‘Taxman’-rivalling bass chords of ‘Start!’; and the gloriously infectious new-wave pop of late singles, best witnessed by the bittersweet charm of ‘Town Called Malice’. The band is sharp – the riffs are memorable and hooky; the rhythm section is pounding and punky one moment, then refined and paced the next, adapting to the tone of Weller’s lyrics, of which, were supremely informed and reflective of the emotions of the youth inhabiting his home country circa 1977-1982. Snap!
is simply an essential and perfectly compiled collection of defining songs from one of Britain’s finest punk-era bands – one that far too many have missed and no longer have an excuse to continue to ignore.