Review Summary: Weller shows the kids (and adults) were it's at."A kick in the balls, that's entertainment"
, Paul Weller sang in 1980. By that time, The Jam had evolved into one of Britain's finest bands. But their 1977 debut at times feels just like that: a kick in the balls. It's aggressive, fast and smart all at the same time, and this can easily be credited to the masterful songwriting skills of Weller. At the age of 18, he urged young people across the nation to stand up for their beliefs (this came out amidst the heights of the punk movement, mind you), calling for a revolution of sorts. However, whereas the Sex Pistols preached "No Future" and spitted on everything that came before them, The Jam honored their idols in their music. Instead of calling out for anarchy, they just wanted the adults to take them seriously. And a lot of frustrated young people followed Weller and his gang.
All this is already evident in the opening track Art School
. "Who makes the rules that make people select/Who is to judge that your ways are correct/The media as watchdog is absolute ***/The TV telling you what to think"
, sings Weller, saying the future belongs to the youth and that they don't have to succumb to the idiotic visions of the older generation or the media. Accompanying the lyrics is a refined form of punk riffs. Instead of just playing the same chord for 3 minutes straight, the music takes cues from garage bands such as The Kinks and shifting tempos in the riffs are quite common. This results in an accentuation on each separate note played, making the end result more powerful and urgent.
As stated before, The Jam didn't want to spit on their musical idols. Apart from the influences of 60's garage and mod bands, the debut also includes two covers. Batman Theme
is pretty straightforward, modeled after the The Who version. It still rocks, though and is a great conclusion of the first half of the record. The reworking of Slow Down
, originally by rock 'n' roll/ R&B artist Larry Williams, however is impressive in how it transforms the mellow original into a blazing punk anthem, and as such, it's one of the album highlights.
As a resting point between the fast riffage, we have Away From The Numbers
and Sounds From The Street
. The subdued tempo lets the lyrics of Weller shine, when he reminisces about being proud of who he is and where he comes from. "That's more than you, at least I'm doing something"
, he yells at the end of the latter song, and the kids are listening.
With In The City, The Jam have recorded a real punk/mod masterpiece. Many of the lyrics are still relevant today, which is proof of the writing skills of Weller, who - even to this day - still can write a decent tune. A kick in the balls, that's entertainment, but not quite as entertaining as this wonderful debut.