Friday, August 16, 2013

Jam 8: Snap!

Having already closed out their short career with a live retrospective, it was high time for a Jam hits album. Snap! was a two-record set, packed to the gills with all of their singles, plus album tracks and B-sides. That last detail is key, because while The Jam made some excellent albums, their singles put them firmly in the tradition of the Beatles before them (and the Smiths after) by ensuring that every record counted, be it a single, LP or EP.
And they had some terrific singles in between those albums. “All Around The World” combines the energy of their first two albums with a call-and-response vocal; Bruce Foxton even got his own moment to shine on “News Of The World” two 45s later. (And what came between those? “The Modern World”, of course.) All Mod Cons gets the most representation with six tracks, leading up to two superior double-sided singles. The narrator of “Strange Town” takes the guise of “a spaceman from those UFOs”, but it’s just as fitting a description of any naïf lost in the Big City. “The Butterfly Collector” is a particularly nasty speech to an aging strumpet. “When You’re Young” dispenses further wisdom to “kids” his own age, while “Smithers-Jones”, in its original B-side guise, will always inspire debate as whether it or the tarted-up version on Setting Sons is better. Those were great singles, but the top was “Going Underground”, a masterpiece of melody, anger and fear, while “Dreams Of Children” predicts the Revolver-isms of their next album with a familiar riff and what sounds like the chorus of “Thick As Thieves” run backwards over it.
“That’s Entertainment” appears in a very similar demo version, while a remixed “Funeral Pyre” (written by the whole band) conjures the image of flames over a galloping rhythm. The horn section kicks off the final phase of their career for “Absolute Beginners”, but its upbeat mood is tempered by the haunting “Tales From The Riverbank”. The band’s last two hits were as elaborate as they were foretelling; “The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow)” sports bright strings, intricate guitar parts and a hilariously tragic lyric, while “Beat Surrender” overturns the anger of his younger days with a determination to rise above the BS. It provides an optimistic conclusion.
The original LP set (which came with a bonus EP of songs from their final show) was soon rejigged for the emerging compact disc format; since everything wouldn’t fit, Compact Snap! has eight fewer songs, sacrificing a few B-sides and album tracks, but still including every A-side. In 1991, after the reemergence of Paul Weller as a rock artist, the label released Greatest Hits, which duplicated most of Compact Snap!, with only a few substitutions. Six years later, The Very Best Of The Jam (not released in the US) added two more songs, while 2002’s The Sound Of The Jam took another stab at compiling their best. It wasn’t until 2006 that Snap! was reissued in a full two-CD package (three if you bought the one with the live EP) with all 29 songs. Even the inclusion of “Precious” can’t diminish the quality of this music.

The Jam Snap! (1983)—5
Compact Snap! CD: same as above, minus 8 tracks

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