The Jam -‘The Gift’ (Polydor/Universal)
There’s an alternate, inferior parallel universe to this one, where The Jam split up after a disappointing reaction to their second album, This Is The Modern World. I say inferior, because the The Jam produced a heck of a lot of great music in their time together as a band. However -they truly came into their own with the release of 1978’s All Mod Cons (a pun on ‘mod’? Well, what do you think?).
They were an excellent singles band (my personal favourite being the non-album cut ‘Strange Town’ from 1979), and produced some excellent albums. In 1982 they bowed out at the end of the year on a high, integrity intact and leaving their audience wanting more (there’s quite a few bands who should bear this in mind). Whilst the three members -drummer Rick Buckler, bassist Bruce Foxton and singer/guitarist Paul Weller (you may have heard of him) worked in combinations over the years, they have never reformed, and only The Smiths are more tightly debated in terms of reformation.
As I said, 1982 was the year they bowed out on a high. This was their final studio album, and despite the considerable number of UK no.1 singles they notched up, their only no.1 album. It’s long been my favourite Jam album. The single ‘Town Called Malice’/’Precious’ became a massive hit, and showcases Weller’s growing interest in soul and funk (though this can be traced back far earlier on in the Jam’s career). But -as well as the Dutch only single ‘Just Who Is The 5 o’clock Hero? (which charted in the UK on import) -there’s a number of excellent album cuts.
Album opener ‘Happy Together’ nods to the post-punk sound that the band had explored on the previous year’s ‘Funeral Pyre’ and ‘Carnation’ (later covered by Steve Cradock and Liam Gallagher) is in some ways like ‘English Rose part 2.’ But the second track ‘Ghosts’ remains one of the finest songs The Jam ever recorded (and no, nothing to do with the Japan track either).
With additional discs on various editions given over to various extras, including demos and a gig from Wembley Arena in December 1982, this a comprehensive overview of The Jam’s final year together. Not least because it also sees the addition of yet more non-album singles in ‘The Bitterest Pill I Ever Had To Swallow.’
The finest Jam album, and comprehensive reissue.
The Gift is re-issued by Polydor/Universal on November 19.