Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Jam 6: The Gift

Their longest gap yet between albums was interrupted by a couple of singles, the latter of which included prominent horns. Not yet 24 years old, Paul Weller was moving away from the punk/mod sound that brought so many fans to his band, and was now writing songs to be performed in a funk/soul style. That wouldn’t be a bad thing if he had a more convincing voice to carry it. While his throat had developed a huskiness, the kid we hear testifying all over The Gift seems more like a poser. And despite some excellent songs, it’s their least successful album.
“Happy Together” (announced as being “in technicolor”) begins with a dub-style toast, then settles into an urgent groove. “Ghosts” ticks gently under a nicely picked theme, with canned handclaps and some trumpets. Things go immediately wrong on “Precious”, an interminable funk jam one would expect from, say, Culture Club. When that finally ends, “Just Who Is The 5 O’Clock Hero?” celebrates the man who comes home every day “covered in sh-t and aches and pains”. Then it’s back to jamming—“Trans-Global Express” gave the tour a name, but buried Weller’s words under an echo- and delay-heavy mix. Yet another “one two free four” calls up “Running On The Spot”, another decent tune fighting against a bad mix.
The noisy instrumental “Circus” sets up “The Planner’s Dream Goes Wrong”, a faux-calypso tale. Thankfully, the rest of the album is a major improvement. “Carnation” is classic Jam, tuneful and cohesive. “Town Called Malice” was the big hit, a Motown experiment that actually works. And the title track conjures up some of the punk spirit for something of “In The Midnight Hour” turned on its head.
Some people adore The Gift, to the point where the 30th anniversary deluxe edition just released in the UK was very well received. However, we agree with the band’s own rhythm section, who were very disappointed with the direction the music was going, and were equally frustrated when Weller broke up the band in favor of the slicker Style Council.

The Jam The Gift (1982)—

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