As debut albums go and released at the time it was, it's hard to imagine how this one could be any better. 1977 was a period of conflicting musical styles. The impact of the 60s goliaths The Beatles and The Who could still be felt, there was the arrival of disco and the explosion of punk. This album is a great reflection of these uncertain musical times.
To hear the songs, you immediately think of punk. The angry twang of Weller's Rickenbacker and Foxton's pounding bass coupled with the angst in Weller's voice make the band stand out from the meaningless punk mediocrity that was around at the same time. However, a deeper study will reveal much more complexity. How many punk groups sang about wanting to be away from the numbers, non-stop dancing and had songs with love in the title? No, The Jam were, even here at this early stage, so much more than a punk band. Visually the band in their black suits are a throwback to the early Beatles and Who era. Sounds From The Street was Weller's answer to the American beach craze spearheaded by The Beach Boys, Non-Stop Dancing makes reference to James Brown and the soul music which was to influence Weller so much in his career, Slow Down is a Larry Williams Rythym and Blues cover whilst In The City, a title borrowed from The Who's "A Quick One" album and the Batman Theme which again appears on the same Who album clearly show Weller's mod influences. Running through the album however is the beginning of the social concern and urban realism that feature so heavily in The Jam's output and which became a core part of their overall importance.
This is a raw and powerful sound and lacks the refinement of the band's output from All Mod Cons but The Jam announced their arrival with full power and force with this debut and the multi layerd 18 year old lead singer sows the seeds for what was to come later. Brilliant stuff!!
if you are young and into todays punk bands, then you will like this album. I bought this when it came out, and its still good now. Musically its probably not The Jams best, but it has that immediacy of youth, that Weller had in abundance in his early work. It pays homage to the who, motown, put into a 1977 woking punk scene. You can tell even at this stage that weller was going to have a long and outstanding career. 'In the city' was the opening single for the band, and it got a lot of people to buy the album. If you've heard 'in the city' and like it, then buy it to.
Just topping up my CD collection with some timeless classics - they had bags of attitude (and a great songwriter) then and Paul Weller still has those qualities today after so many years... If you like The Jam, just simply buy ALL there albums, simples..........
'The Jam, what sort of ridiculous name is that?' - these were the words (or something similar) with which I remember greeting my schoolmate after he'd returned from a 1977 gig at London's Marquee to see France's Little Bob Story supported by Weller's boys (no doubt, something of a hybrid of Townshend's mob and The Marmalade?). Listening again to this magnificent debut album from that same year (on which I can certainly hear Townshend's influence on Weller's guitar - not so sure about a discernible 'Wilko Johnson influence' though) it stick packs a major punch and (in my book) stands up well against anything Woking's finest did thereafter.
One thing that surprised me (either I'd forgotten or never read the lyrics in the first place!) was just how 'political' Weller's lyrics are (at times) here. Of course, Weller (as he later admitted) was rather 'mixed-up' in his political thinking at this point (stating, perhaps in jest, he would be voting Tory at the 'next election' and then writing Eton Rifles two years later!), but on the brilliant Time For Truth he rails against (admittedly Labour-led) authority ('You're just another red balloon with a lot of hot gas'), whilst Bricks And Mortar takes up the cause of the homeless. Boredom with Surrey suburbia is (of course) to the fore on the pulsating album title song and its soulful counterpart Sounds From The Street, whilst Weller is in more perceptive, thoughtful territory (the transitoriness of relationships) on each of I've Changed My Address and the innovative, soul-infused little gem, I Got By In Time.
This debut album also brilliantly captures (thanks to Vic Smith and Chris Parry's raw, vibrant production) the band's live energy - nowhere more so than on album opener, the rebellious Art School ('Don't need permission for everything that you want') and on the superb, pulsating cover of Larry Williams' Slow Down (OK, there is a 'Wilko sound' here). Exuberance continues to be the order of the day on Non-Stop Dancing, Taking My Love and (following The Who's lead) the 'throwaway' Batman Theme. At the other end of the 'songwriting spectrum', though, is a Weller masterpiece, Away From The Numbers, something of a 'personal treatise' of philosophical ambition, on which the man's Rickenbacker sounds truly resplendent, giving rise to a song to rate with Weller's very best.
For me, therefore, although Weller's band was obviously headed in a different direction, this debut sits alongside the debut albums by The Clash, Sex Pistols and The Damned as one of the definitive records from the era.
A great first album full of passion and no doubt influenced by the Who, in fact they do the Batman theme which the Who also covered years before. Well, everyone has influences and the songs are really racey and make you want to dance and flies the flag for the mod revival aswell as being part of the new wave of bands in 1977. Politicially it was a time of change and speaking your mind. Buy this album !!!