Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Jam - Snap!

Tomorrow (October 14th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Snap!, a double-album compilation from the Jam. This 1983 release followed the band’s split; it featured sixteen of their singles released in the UK, a few B-sides, some new tunes and some rarities.

Side one of the first begins “In the City”, the title track from their 1977 debut album. It reached number 40 in the UK as a single. Like a lot of that first album, it featured a mod/punk sound inspired by the early music of the Who. The lyrics embrace the punk music sound of the UK at the time.

“Away From the Numbers” also appeared on In the City.

A “worldly“ block of tunes is next. It starts with “All Around the World”, a non-album single from the summer of 1977 that hit number 13 on the UK charts. The lyrics tell of a guy’s search for a girl.

“The Modern World” came off of their second album This Is the Modern World. As a single, it hit number 36 in the UK. Presented here is the radio version which is censored.

Another non-album single “News of the World” charted at number 27 in early 1978. The lyrics of this rocker question the media, specifically the British tabloid News of the World, and how it spins world events. Some things don’t change in thirty-five years, eh?

“Billy Hunt” is the first of a big block from the band’s third album All Mod Cons from 1978. I like its bouncy rhythm.

“English Rose” opens with the soothing sounds of the ocean front, followed by some lovely acoustic guitar.

“Mr. Clean” is next. These last three songs really jump out to me as they show that the band was already trying to change their sound quite a bit from their first year of recording.

Side two of the first opens with “David Watts”, a cover of a 1967 song by the Kinks. The Jam released it as a single which went to number 25 in the UK.

“’A’ Bomb in Wardour Street” was the B-side to the “David Watts” track.

“Down in the Tube Station at Midnight” was the closing track on All Mod Cons. As a single, it reached number 15 on the UK charts. This one tells of a man coming home from work late at night on the train; after being robbed and attacked, he lies on the ground close to death.

In 1979, the non-album cut “Strange Town” also reached number 15 on the charts.

The creepy “The Butterfly Collector”, the B-side, follows. It reminds me of that guy in town that everyone says you should avoid.

“When You’re Young”, a summer of ‘79 non-album single, went to number 17 on the UK charts.

Tracks from the fourth album Setting Sons begin with “Smithers-Jones”. It focuses on a guy who works hard for a firm only to find himself laid off.

“Thick as Thieves” ends the first half of this collection.

Side one of the second starts with “The Eton Rifles”. This 1979 single went to number 50 in Australia and number 3 in the UK. The lyrics were inspired by the students of Eton College who mixed it up with some Right To Work protest marchers in 1978.

The non-album “Going Underground” was the first number 1 single for the band in the UK. It also went to number 50 in Australia and number 28 in New Zealand in 1980.

“Dreams of Children” served as the B-side to “Going Underground”. The version on this set was the US edit.

“That’s Entertainment” begins a block of tracks from 1980’s Sound Affects. The original single reached number 21 on the UK charts. With an acoustic arrangement, the lyrics paint a picture of the life of the British working class. The song is one of the band’s most known, having been covered by a number of acts and earning it a spot on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time. The version here is a demo cut of the song.

The single version of “Start!” is next; it debuted at the number 3 spot on the UK charts and eventually made it up to number 1. The bass riff, played by Bruce Foxton, is based on the Beatles’ “Taxman” from 1966.

“Man in the Corner Shop” has a bit of a 60’s flavor to it.

A remixed version of “Funeral Pyre” is next. This 1981 non-album single went to number 72 in Australia and number 4 in the UK. Rick Buckler’s drums and Foxton’s bass gives it a whole surf-rock vibe.

Side two of the second commences with “Absolute Beginners”. Like the last track, this one too was released in 1981, was not on any albums originally, and hit number 4 in the UK. I like the use of the horn section here as it gives the band a whole new element.

“Tales From the Riverbank” was the B-side to “Absolute Beginners”.

“Town Called Malice” was the first single from 1982’s The Gift. I have always loved this working class song for it has a great tempo that is supported by wicked organ playing. It went to number 19 in Canada, number 15 in Australia, number 14 in New Zealand, and number 1 in the UK. This one is easily my favorite single from the Jam due to the energy.

“Precious” was released along with a “Town Called Malice” as a double-A side single. This one has a very 60’s soul sound to me.

“The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had to Swallow)” was released as a single in the fall of 1982. It went to number 91 in Australia, number 50 in New Zealand, and number 2 in the UK.

“Beat Surrender”, the final single from the group, was released in late 1982. It went to number 35 in both Australia and New Zealand, and number 1 in the UK. This one takes second place on my list of favorite Jam songs.

For someone like me who got into the Jam late in their recording cycle (1982), Snap! is a good retrospective collection that covers the entire five year range. All of the non-album tracks make this one attractive for fans of the band in places like the States where those singles as imports were hard to come by.


HERC said...

This is defintely one of the finest albums of its kind.

Please, please, please start reviewing more compilation albums like this one. "Greatest Hits" and "Best Of" albums often get the shaft on review sites and lists of essential albums.

Coming up in November, Barry Manilow's Greatest Hits Vol. II will be celebrating its 30th Anniversary followed by The Cure's Japanese Whispers in December.

Looking ahead to 1984, you have Bob Marley's Legend, The Rolling Stones' Rewind, The Best of Kansas and Hatful Of Hollow from The Smiths. There are probably others that escape me at the moment.

Martin Maenza said...

Herc, with so many other first run albums and only so many days, compilations like greatest hits, best of and live albums tend to get pushed out - for now. I will likely hit them up when I need new content on the next pass at a year's anniversary marks. Something that does push them in though is if they have new, exclusive content - songs that did not appear on earlier works.