A YEAR IN MUSIC: KATE BUSH – The Dreaming (1982)

A YEAR IN MUSIC: 1982
Review by: Dinar Khayrutdinov

I LOVE Kate Bush. She is a unique artist that balances experimental approach and true talent with accessibility and pop hooks so well that I truly think all of her albums can be enjoyed by most music lovers. However, The Dreaming is still a very special offering in Kate’s catalogue, because this is where she REALLY sets her creativity and her typical brand of weirdness loose. So yes, this record definitely leans towards Kate’s experimental side, and that’s exactly what I love about it!
 
To be fair, “experimental” isn’t really the word here. This is still Kate Bush, not Nurse with Wound or Captain Beefheart or something. So most of the songs stay within “normal” and accessible melodic frames, except of course only Kate could actually come up with THESE melodies: they are perfectly accessible, but they are… unconventional, to put it mildly. On this album you really get the feeling she had a ton fun with them, letting herself do whatever she wanted.
 
Kate’s vocal range is another thing that’s totally let loose – hear that woman scream, pant, harmonize, sing in her normal voice, sing in an exaggerated theatrical manner, sing in a high-pitched voice, sing in a comically low “baritone”, whisper, record her vocals backwards and so on, and so on – sometimes within the same song!
 
The instruments and arrangements are VERY unpredictable too – sometimes you suddenly hear synths coming out of nowhere, sometimes gorgeous strings appear, or scary basslines, or murky percussion, or Irish violins, or a pounding drum-machine – welcome to Kate Bush’s flying circus!
 
Overall, this album is nowhere near as balanced and thought-through as Hounds of Love, not at all as melodic as The Kick Inside, not as mysteriously romantic as Never for Ever and not as… well, as sensual as The Sensual World. Instead, this is Kate’s “crazy” album, where you get all her split personalities at once in one package. That alone, for me, is worth naming this my favourite album of 1982.

A YEAR IN MUSIC: RICHARD & LINDA THOMPSON – Shoot Out The Lights (1982)

A YEAR IN MUSIC: 1982
Review by: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Whenever anyone asks me for my favourite guitar albums* – as in, “which of your favourite records are the best and most thrilling when it comes to the guitar playing” – I usually have very little hesitation in singling out one album in particular, that is Richard and Linda Thompson’s valedictory 1982 masterpiece Shoot out the Lights: a record borne of painful and acrimonious personal circumstances, but that, of all that duo’s fantastic run of 1970s-80s albums, is generally regarded as their absolute finest. 

Shoot out the Lights is an album that I find myself returning to over and over again and that has lost little of its freshness and its ability to startle for me, even after a full decade or so of intense listening. I single it out as a great guitar album because as brilliant, and in fact as sublime, as the songwriting, the lyrics and the singing are on Shoot out the Lights – and trust me both Linda and Richard are absolutely at the top of their game here – it is Richard Thompson’s guitar that ultimately ensures the record’s immortality. 

Thompson’s playing on Shoot out the Lights represents a true marriage of profound artistic inspiration with a remarkable instrumental virtuosity and technique that foreswears any hint of flashiness or trace of superfluity, but that instead is always supple and alive: the grace and fluidity of Thompson’s lines characterised by an extraordinary sense of precision and focus. Thomson’s guitar playing always lends a striking, palpable sensuality to the songs on this record: songs that trace the breakdown and disintegration of a marriage that was also a wildly successful artistic partnership, though in the end the ache seems to have been primarily a bodily/physico-emotional one. The guitar’s electric resonances hint closely at past intimacies, at feelings since buried over in a furious tide of acrimony and accusation – the instrument serves as an unforgettable, furiously effective complement to Linda’s yearning-but-distant vocals in songs like “Walking on a Wire” and Richard’s gruffly desperate turn on “Man in Need”: ultimately raising these songs to a level of emotional eloquence that is rare, even among the best of Thompson’s folkish/singer songwriter peers.

Linda is dignified but broken throughout – weary beyond telling (“where’s the justice and where’s the sense?/when all the pain is on my side of the fence”) – her haunted vocals are a mixture of betrayal and utter resignation, while Richard’s vocals swing back and forth between bewilderment and rage (“Back Street Slide”). 

In the end, even though it’s the guitar that sets this album apart, the songwriting is just exceptional throughout – and if you’ve ever been curious as to why Richard Thompson is so often cited as one of our finest living songwriters then I really can’t think of a better place to start. 


*No-one’s ever actually asked me this, not yet anyway, but just humour me. 

A YEAR IN MUSIC: IRON MAIDEN – The Number of the Beast (1982)

A YEAR IN MUSIC: 1982
Review by: Victor Guimarães

It is widely known the importance of the eighties to music, specially to rock music. Ok, it was the age of the synthesizers, new age and electro-music, but also the decade who gave a great name to modern metal. Yeah, I know metal is from before the 80s with some heavier songs here and there and great bands already in the 70s, such as Led Zeppelin (which while one can argue about the metal label, they’ve been truly influential to the genre, one of its biggest progenitors), Black Sabbath and Judas Priest (those two are indeed metal), among others. The (arguably) loudest, most distorted and meanest derivation of rock music, metal was, in the 80s, getting independent from its blues and psychedelic origins while also drinking from the same cup as the punk movement. Those influences helped to create a new kind of intensity, fast and aggressive, which gave birth to the widely known and loved New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM, for short), a movement whose most expressive and famous band is Iron Maiden.

The Number of the Beast is Maiden’s third album, the first to feature vocalist Bruce Dickinson and a milestone for the band, as its commercial and critical success made the british headbangers soar as much as any metal band before them could. It was so famous that contributed for opening the market for the genre and spreading the movement around the world, inspiring other great names, such as Helloween and Metallica. And while the album’s name, cover art and some of the lyrics inspired some rumors about the band being satanic (which was corroborated by some strange incidentes that happened while the band was recording), the inspiration for it was a nightmare bass player Steve Harris had after watching the film ‘The Omen’ (1976). A motion picture I’d recommend myself.

The record is remembered by Dickinson remarkable vocals, bringing Maiden music to a new dimension, and by maintaining the amazing instrumental level the band displayed in their two previous works: creative, catchy, talented guitar solos, captivating, rising drums and a strong, ever-present bass. Now, add that instrumental raw talent with great songwriting, clever melodies, riffs, bridges and choruses, all composed to draw the best these inspired musicians could do. Apart from all those compliments, The Number of the Beast is not without flaws as some songs can be a bit repetitive sometimes and the lyricism is quite simple, contemplating themes such as war and battles, desperation from facing death or the supernatural, and even contemplating the events around a brothel. For the tracks, the spotlight shines on Hallowed Be Thy Name, Run To The Hills and the title track, The Number Of The Beast.

A major success and undeniably famous – it’s the reason why the band is also sometimes referred as “The Beast” – the album was the kickstart to Iron Maiden’s legacy, which continues to this day. The year 1982 was way before my birth, and thus, I came to this work of art more than 20 years of its release. It might not be the best album of that year, or even Iron Maiden’s best album, but, for me, it was a priceless experience to listen to The Number of the Beast, a classic of heavy metal that has been linking generations of old and young, experienced and rookie metalheads (and other music lovers) through time. 

An experience I’d like to pass on. Hope you get the link as well.

A YEAR IN MUSIC: ALICE COOPER – Zipper Catches Skin (1982)

A YEAR IN MUSIC: 1982
Review by: Jonathan Hopkins

It’s hard for me to think of a more unjustly maligned album than Zipper Catches Skin. Almost everybody considers it the low point of Alice Cooper’s career, and those that don’t seem to have forgotten it exists. Even the few defenders these days seem to only offer lukewarm praise along the lines of “It’s not as bad as people say.” While not quite a masterpiece, I do think this is a very good album that doesn’t deserve anywhere near the hate it gets.

First, some background: This is the second of what Alice refers to as “the blackout trilogy.” His alcoholism had gotten so bad that he claims to have no recollection of this album or the two albums bookending it, although he does seem to at least have some memory of Special Forces given that he toured it and occasionally will resurrect a couple of songs from it. The same can’t be said for this or DaDa. On that album, the picture we got was rather sad and tragic, but here, humor and irony rule the day. Also, while recording Zipper, he wasn’t just plagued by alcohol abuse – he was also addicted to crack, and apparently during the sessions, he’d hit the pipe after any given take. That’s really the key to understanding this album.

I don’t want to give the impression that Zipper is about his addiction problems – it isn’t “about” anything at all. But musically, crack is clearly the primary external influence. I don’t even know how to classify this album. Most people shrug their shoulders and call it “New Wave,” but even as loose as that term is, it doesn’t fit comfortably. The album doesn’t have the herky-jerky Cars rhythms of Flush the Fashion, nor the Police guitar tones of Special Forces. There are barely any keyboards with the notable exception of “I Am The Future,” a slow sci-fi dirge which was recorded for a film soundtrack and thrown on here to fill up space. It doesn’t belong on the album at all, but since Zipper‘s goal seems to be to make as little sense as possible, it ends up working. I suppose I’d call Zipper hyperactive post-punk as a descriptor, but even that doesn’t feel adequate.

Zipper can’t really be measured in individual songs. Alice barely sings, preferring instead to snarl and bark his way through in a half-speaking/half-singing manner, and the tracks don’t feel so much composed as spewed out. However, the songs all have their own individual moments of intrigue. “Adaptable” is an undeniably catchy and well-constructed pop song, to the point where I’m amazed it wasn’t chosen as the lead single. “Zorro’s Ascent” and “Scrooge’s Song” combine their slightly off-kilter guitar work with snappy choruses. The manic riffage and completely out of place, but effective, backing vocals of “I Better Be Good” are incredibly charming, as is the way the song essentially constructs itself from the ground up with each passing line. I’ll never get the way Alice Cooper snarls out “I’ve got a Porsche and I’m leaving Grand Rapids” in front of what sounds like a twisted version of 50’s rock music in “I Like Girls” out of my head. Every song has something good to say about it, but there’s only so many ways I can pick out and phrase these moments.

It’s the moments that make the concept work, and that concept is essentially a portrait of the complete collapse of a man’s psyche, and that is why I find the album so fascinating. It starts off somewhat normally – composition wise, not in attitude or lyrics which are already off-kilter – and as it goes on, the tempos get more frenetic and the madness ratchets up very quickly. It’s hard to think that the album could get crazier considering that it starts with “I AM THE FOX AND I GO WHERE I WANT!” until you find out it ends with “THAT WAS THE DAY MY DEAD PET RETURNED TO SAVE MY LIFE!”

Zipper certainly isn’t perfect. I’ve already mentioned that the songs don’t seem to have any thought put into them, and while the style works for me for the 30 minutes it’s given to us, I could see how it could get annoying to some, and if it went on any longer, it probably would to me as well.

But those weaknesses don’t detract from what I consider to be a very intriguing and idiosyncratic experience. I think the backlash comes down to two things: what people expect from Alice and whether the style and hyper-self-effacement endears itself to the listener or aggravates them. The second point is subjective, but as to the first, I’ll say that while it may be stylistically nothing like one would expect from Alice, the spirit is there 100%. There are many albums and songs out there which depict something like a slow descent into madness – Syd Barrett and Skip Spence’s albums, parts of Peter Gabriel’s III, a whole bunch of stuff by Pink Floyd – but this is the only album I can think of which depicts not a slow descent, but a rapid plunge, and does so entirely without its creator’s consent, with the tongue-in-cheek sarcasm and irony Alice Cooper is known for on overdrive. Whether you like Zipper or not, there has never been anything else quite like it.

A YEAR IN MUSIC: THE CLASH – Combat Rock (1982)

A YEAR IN MUSIC: 1982
Review by: James Hodgkiss

Combat Rock, the last album by the Clash*, is an interesting album, taking the experiment that was Sandinista! and refining it, making it more coherent and blending it with their established sound to create something that really defies any attempt at categorisation other than “a work of genius”. I’ve not tried to properly review anything before, and doing it in the middle of the night like this probably won’t help, but whatever – the following is written, track by track, as I’m listening.

“Know Your Rights” as an opener sets the tone for the whole album, really: angry shouting and guitars in the name of social justice as you’d expect from the Clash, but a ska beat with the piano behind it and vocals that follow their own idea of what the song sounds like, utterly fantastic and at the same time unusual.

“Car Jamming” is even more unusual, I have no idea how to make any kind of examination of it other than that it’s great. I’m trying to think of more to say because it needs more than one sentence, but honestly I can’t describe it, it’s a Combat Rock song and immediately recognisable as such. Echoes of Joe’s later stuff, certainly, but unmistakably a Clash song nonetheless.

“Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” is the most normal song on the album, and again it’s just fantastic. Easily the most accessible, the bass tone is a tad strange, that’s not at all a bad thing, just a reminder that it’s still Combat Rock. Come on, who doesn’t love it?

“Rock The Casbah” now, following genius with genius. All the music written by Topper Headon, and the piano at the start played by him too (and the bass, or so I read somewhere), as if his drumming wasn’t enough to make us remember how great a musician he is. This is the Combat Rock sound at its most accessible, definitely not the regular Clash sound but just as glorious, as I’m sure anyone could hear, not just people who already like them.

“Red Angel Dragnet” – Paul and Topper providing a weird, massively cool beat with occasional stabs of guitar while Joe…fuck knows, I have no idea what he’s talking about, but it’s got the ineffable essence of the Clash that makes it great anyway.

“Straight To Hell” is an incredibly powerful song, it might take you a while to realise it but when you do it’ll hit you like a punch in the stomach. Just listen to the frustration, anger and pain in Joe’s voice, and I don’t know how to describe the music accompanying it in a way that’s not repeating what I’ve said about other songs already and that’s not good enough because it is different, there’s a different feeling to it and it compliments the vocals perfectly, like I said I don’t know how to describe it but just fucking listen to it, really listen to it, and you’ll see what I mean.

“Overpowered By Funk”… despite what the title claims this is actually the exact amount of funk to be cool as fuck rather than overpowering, though that is helped a lot by it being The Clash playing it because let’s be honest, it’s hard for them not to sound cool as fuck. I still have shit all idea what Joe’s talking about but it doesn’t matter because it’s him saying it.

“Atom Tan”. This just sounds great, again it’s unmistakably a Combat Rock song, I can only get vague scraps of meaning from it but as with Joe’s later stuff, I know there’s a meaning there even if I can’t work it out.

“Sean Flynn” is definitely reminiscent of Joe’s later stuff (can you be reminiscent of the future?) in feeling, though perhaps not as much in instrumentation. It’s Joe making a point in the obscure way he does, you might not get it as a song if you don’t really try, but if you do you’ll find it’s bloody good. It knows what it’s doing and where it’s going, even if you don’t.

“Ghetto Defendant” now, a weird song that again you probably won’t get unless you try, and again I don’t really know what it means but I know it has a meaning, Joe is trying to tell us something important in a way he understands but nobody else ever could.

“Inoculated City” is far more easily understood, and not as weird either (by Combat Rock standards), it’s an underrated song. Not sure what else to say, everything I could write about it could be gained just as easily by listening to it.

“Death Is A Star”… part song, part spoken word, none of it understandable, but still with that gripping Clash sound. Again I’m not sure what else to say, but that’s because it defies description really, it’s unlike anything else and no other band could do it.

All in all it’s a truly sublime album, unlike anything else, a fitting note for the band to end on and what I’ve said obviously hasn’t done it justice because no words ever could. It’s the Clash, how could they?

*Yes, absolutely definitely the last album. There most certainly wasn’t an album under their name released called Cut The Crap, that did not ever happen.

A YEAR IN MUSIC: SPLIT ENZ – Time and Tide (1982)

A YEAR IN MUSIC: 1982
Review by: Nina A

 

Split Enz are one of my most favourite bands ever but for the uninitiated they seem to be perceived as what Neil Finn was doing before he got himself a new band, wrote “Don’t Dream It’s Over” and thereby reserved an eternal spot on vh1’s So 80’s or One Hit Wonders playlists for himself. By the way, Split Enz also had a hit in the US with “I Got You” from the 1980 album True Colours (another Neil-penned track), and although it only reached #53 it went to #1 in both their native New Zealand and current residence of Australia and made them known to the world as this poppy new wave band. Need I say, they were saaaw maaahch moaar!!!!
By the time Time and Tide arrived in 1982, the band had arguably reached their creative peak (or at least their post-1977 lineup had): in a year or two, frontman Tim Finn would become enamoured with his solo projects and disinterested with the band’s career enough to effectively break it up but for now he had a lot to say because he was going through a rough patch of his life. How do I know? Well…
Split Enz had always had “quirky” written on their business card, and the whimsical stage performances and elaborate costumes and stage make-up (courtesy to percussionist Noel Crombie) was what stood out about them but deep down they had enough charming personality to attract a devout fanbase – one that formed as an official fan club way back in 1976 and to this day spends time reminiscing about events, posting pictures and documenting every single detail of the band’s career online. It is obvious that to them (and me) every Split Enz album is special in a different way but the real question here is, if you are not really invested in Tim Finn’s nervous breakdown, or the story of Neil Finn meeting Sandy Allen (“the world’s tallest woman”, as the next line of the song proclaims likely because they had no Wikipedia back then) in New York, or how Noel took on the daunting drumming responsibilities after former drummer Mal Green left the band, does this album have anything to offer to you, listener, and is it really all that good?
In my opinion it is as good as the Enz (yes, fans and press really called them that) get. A significant chunk of the weirdness is gone here, and even the costumes and weird make up are severely toned down, consisting of fitting the subject naval attire, to make way for a somewhat more honest emotional journey. It is really the emotional arc of the three main compositions here – opener “Dirty Creature”, the epic of “Pioneer/Six Months in a Leaky Boat”, which is the centerpiece of this more or less conceptual album with a strong nautical undercurrent (he-he, puns), and Tim’s own autobiography in song format “Haul Away” – that makes the strongest case for this record. The main songwriters of the band post the major lineup overhaul of 1977 have been Tim and Neil, of course, with occasional sweeping instrumental contributions by keyboardist Eddie Rayner but this album is all about Tim and his emotional journey, so much so that it was called “Tim and Tide” by critics at the time. (Neil gets the spotlight on the next one, as fate would have it, but with the very different narrative of loving your wife and bringing a new life into this wide and imperfect world, which would probably be better appreciated by people aware of the joys of family life.)
Another thing this album has going for it is the tight playing on it – Noel Crombie, following his promotion to a drummer, brings a lot of taste and cymbal action to his energetic but steady druming and with Nigel Griggs’ super solid pulsating bass remaining a staple of the band’s sound, the rhythm section carry this album on its naval journey across the seas (more puns!). While Neil still hasn’t developed his trademark sensitive new-romantic vocal modulation that you can hear all over the Crowded House catalogue and his singing can get a bit flat at times, Tim does a fair bit of chewing the scenery on here and balances intimate and theatrical in a very entertaining way. Another good thing about Time and Tide is that despite this being the 80s and keyboard-wiz Eddie Rayner being still very much at the heart of the Enz’s wall-of-soundy sound, the record doesn’t sound dated or cheesy at all. The production and more specifically the arrangements bring out the best in each tune and succeeds in emphasizing the nautical theme – somehow achieving the sound of the sunset-lit sea on the cover. The final strength I wish to address is the pop sensibility, for despite the energy and wit and unconventional arrangements (well, for the world of pop) these are deep down straightforward catchy pop numbers.
“Dirty Creature” opens here with its driving rhythm and a world of metaphors about er… um… psychological struggle? Panic attacks, to be more specific, which are personified by the mythical Māori beast Taniwha. Binding and gagging Tim’s wits and doing other scary stuff. Next up is the gentler “Giant Heartbeat”, which was written on top of a bass line that Nigel Griggs had come up with, and I think it is here where Neil starts really developing his vague lyrical approach about whatever that somehow so sums up the human condition. Anyway, the song builds nicely and ends on a cool held vocal, leaving the floor for “Hello Sandy Allen”, a song about how we’re all really beautiful or appearance doesn’t really matter all that much or something that gets a pass here because it was written before this trope became widely abused, and also Neil seems to have been sincerely impressed by meeting Ms. Sandy Allen and really digested the event and come up with this conclusion on his own. Also, who cares, the song is so catchy and infectiously happy.
“Never Ceases to Amaze Me” is, on the other hand, super camp, and the video has become somewhat notorious with Tim wearing afro wig and the rest of the band dressed in Star Trek suits materialising in this… zoo… in which he apparently works and examining… these strange hu-man ways… yeah, I think the band have since said that this clip is somewhat embarrasing and they shouldn’t have done it. Despite all this however, the track is not a waste at all with some over the top vocal delivery, energetic drums and ascending bass lines. The following track “Lost for Words”, as well as the album closer “Make Sense of It” are a good use of your Tim Finn and his energetic and frantic stage persona, while the more basic Green Aesop midtempo “Small World” is brought to life by the really effective contrast of driving rhythm and shimmery synths and guitars.
This is followed “Take a Walk” – my favourite number on the album – which also rides an energy wave and delivers a coolish piano solo right after Neil shouts “Run. Boy. Forever AND EVEEEEEER”. Now, I think this song is somewhat prone to word salad moments such as “Funny when we move ahead // Never worry what we leave behind // Remember what a friend of mine said // You gotta be kiiiiind”. And have courage perhaps, then? Is your friend really Cinderella’s mom?
Slowly but surely we have made our way to the sweeping “Pioneer” – Eddie Rayner’s only contribution on this album – which does its best to evoke the ocean at night and with its final elated chord even flash a lighthouse’s welcoming flash of light. And then…
WHEN I WAS A YOOOOOUNG BOY!
This has to be indeed the centrepiece of this album, not only in its emotional sincerity and a strong motif of overcoming but also because it approaches musical epicness with the glorious introduction of “Pioneer” and the wonderfully trailing coda (not to mention a small sailor song-like break in the middle). Apart from resolving to conquer and set free, the song also explores somewhat remoteness and isolation of the antipodean lands, namedropping the history book on Australia “The Tyranny of Distance” as a way to illustrate psychological isolation, I am sure. An interesting fact is that “Six Months in a Leaky Boat” was banned during the Falklands war in the UK because talk of leaky boats was concerning.
This epic is immediately followed by “Haul Away” in which Tim visits chapters of his life while the instrumentation builds from verse to verse. As an additional nice touch, right after he sings “ambition has lost me friends and time” there is a quick sample from “Split Ends” – one of the bands very first songs from way back when a bunch of friends in a quirky acoustic combo were trying to win some New Zealand tv contest for exposure.
A turn to the darker follows on the penultimate “Log Cabin Fever” by Neil, in which a claustrophobic menacing atmosphere builds up until it is released with the line “Time to break away from my condition // Rejoin the human race, see what I’m missing”. And then the song proceeds to rock out.
It is left to the jangly guitars and somewhat drunk bass on “Make Sense of It” to conclude this album.
As for our conclusion, Time and Tide may not be a milestone in any sense of musical development but it is one of those complete package albums. The sound of it is as delightful as the cover art. It is fun and quirky but also resonates emotionally, and not one second of it is filler or boring. With themes of overcoming obstacles and asserting yourself, and some nice nods to seafaring and adventure, all brought out to shine with some tasteful arrangements, I’d say the record even verges on timeless. While Split Enz’s debut Mental Notes is an exhibition artful quirk and offbeat music hall extravaganza, and the hit album True Colours brings you catchy shiny polished new wave, it is Time and Tide, in my opinion, that is the most complete offering in the Split Enz catalogue. But more than that, as I said in the beginning, the real charm of the Enz that won them over their cult following is perhaps not the whimsical presentation of their early days that must have so impressed people. No, I think the reason people still spin these songs and talk about the band fondly is that the Enz are deep down these straightforward kiwi lads, and while earlier albums painted them into this misfit deadpan snarker role, on Time and Tide they look much more like the protagonists of children novels who may have grown up a bit but still have not lost their thirst for adventure. And this is why I’d always recommend this album.

A YEAR IN MUSIC: THE JAM – The Gift (1982)

A YEAR IN MUSIC: 1982
Review by: Charly Saenz

Some people have their faith, their religions and Bibles. Some other try to explain their fancy philosophy out there so they feel more alive, and thus make each day count (in Springsteen’s words “At the end of every hard day, people find some reason to believe”). Well, we all do that in fact, sometimes putting those words in reviews. 

But when you’re a kid, those things have little sense, and for me (as for many others) what did have sense was Music. So, The Jam were my religion, my little unknown cult with no other known followers, in a little town in South America, without Internet, some mixtapes borrowed or stolen and a few ragged lyrics books bought in dark places. Only The Who and The Kinks belonged in that same category for me, and I wore all their badges with honor in my handmade T-Shirts (and in my school folders, and in 1982 down here those British flags could get you in trouble, you know).

So, this is not another FLAC/MP3 album you will stream from your cool Tidal account, geezer, be respectful, this is The Jam’s last album, no less. 

To start off the record, “Happy Together” deceptively sounds like we’re on familiar ground, but it’s quite obvious instead that they’re moving in a more soulful direction. Great vocal harmonies, a galloping bass by Foxton. And a suspicious love song.. almost saying goodbye to their fans? “But I’ve got no wish to ever cause you pain/Cause there’s enough in this world of sorrow/I’ve no wish to add some more to it”

“Ghosts” is a minimalistic gem, based on a thunderous bass (really, try this on some speakers at higher volume and they will distort heavily), and some horns slowly growing in the distance, leading another “call to arms” from Weller. But by now, Paul is such a mature man (and he was just 24!!) that he’ll choose to talk about your demons inside, mate. And if there’s a prayer I’ll never forget, this is it: “One day you’ll walk right out of this life/And then you’ll wonder why you didn’t try”. 

In “Precious” you finally see where The Jam (Paul) is going. This music was more into the soul side, danceable, far away from punk and even Beatles influences. So we have those 70s R&B guitars, and horns! And man, do they sound fine. Though at the time, the song was heavily criticized, “Precious” was a great single, but sadly, anticipates that The Jam was not the group that Paul envisioned in his head for his future adventures..

“Just Who Is The 5 O’Clock Hero” is one of those slightly (and unjustly) forgotten singles by The Jam. “Running On The Spot” is another highlight with its psychedelic atmosphere which seems like a leftover from “Sounds Affects” to stress Paul’s social message, managing to merge in with the new sound of the band. “Carnation”, one of Paul Weller’s greatest classics, bears some stylized lyrics to talk those (horrible!) human emotions that are so easy to find in your own mirror. The middle part is gorgeous, acoustic, as is the piano part which always leads the melody. 

Now imagine you’re living a dull life in your little neighborhood, being a housewife who’s missing her teens, or the guy trapped in his office rut. Come listen to The Jam, and they’ll put a gold lining around it to create an anthem about you (us): “Town Called Malice” and probably the greatest song about the simple life in the little town (if you don’t count the magnificent Shangri-La of course).  And those words: “Better stop dreaming of the quiet life/’Cos it’s the one we’ll never know/And quit running for that runaway bus/’Cos rosey days are few/And stop apologizing for the things you’ve never done/’Cos time is short and life is cruel/But it’s up to us to change/This Town Called Malice”

And to wrap things up, the title track, a simple statement for the last song in an album by The Jam; there would be singles after that but the message would somehow remain: Keep moving, and avoid “All the time that gets wasted hating”.

I don’t have much to say about “Trans Global Express” (too long), “Circus” (instrumental filler, mostly, nothing remarkable) and “The Planner Dream Goes Wrong” (a caribbean vibe? Come on!) but the rest is Prime Jam, which is something to say. Add some fantastic singles from the time, and you get a perfect lot. We’re talking about a band with somewhat flawed albums, but hey, that’s the case with many other bands (The Police!) and the best proof is their singles collection (A and B sides!) which goes to show these guys wrote and performed some of the best songs of their time. 

Kudos, Paul, for being one of the few who left the race when you were winning, to start from scratch (taking a big risk, which didn’t always pay off by the way). And remember, you’ve got The Gift Of Life! Don’t waste it! Keep movin’!