ALBUM REVIEW: The Jam - About The Young Idea

The Jam ... About The Young Idea (UMC-Polydor).
The Jam ... About The Young Idea (UMC-Polydor).

At a rough estimation, this is the sixth time the best of The Jam has been compiled, and that’s not including box sets.

But Paul Weller, Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler achieved more in a little over five years together than most bands manage in a lifetime.

That’s why their legacy is being explored at an exhibition at Somerset House in London, which lasts until August 31.

This 2CD, 47-track ‘very best of’ is timed to tie in with it, and, leaving aside the cold, commercial cash-in nature of the release, it’s a welcome reminder of what a vital band they were.

Emerging from the new wave scene, they exploded into the charts in 1977 with their debut single In The City, the radio jingle for which kicks off this set.

It’s one of only two ‘exclusive’ tracks here, the other being a previously-unreleased but inessential demo of the single’s B-side, Takin’ My Love.

Over the next five years they released a collection of songs which not only soundtracked their generation, but many of which still sound relevant today.

From adrenalin-fuelled beginnings, they quickly matured into a tight, soulful outfit who influenced the way their followers thought and dressed as well as sang and danced.

Fans of old will know every word of every song, and relish singing along to their favourites: The Modern World, Down In The Tube Station At Midnight, Strange Town, Going Underground, Eton Rifles, and many, many more.

It’s not just the singles which made us love The Jam, of course: it’s album tracks like Away From The Numbers, Billy Hunt and, later, Saturday’s Kids, Thick As Thieves and Man In The Cornershop.

Their transition from angry new wave to stylish Mod to soulful pop is laid out in front of us, culminating in late-era classics like Town Called Malice and Beat Surrender, which hinted at the way Weller would go with The Style Council after splitting The Jam up when he was just 24.

Anyone who wasn’t around at the time could certainly do worse than devote a couple of hours to one of this country’s most essential bands - one arguably as influential as the Beatles, Stones and The Who were in the ‘60s.

Enjoy the music, we may never see their like again. 9/10. GW