by Chad Van Wagner
How times change… While The Jam were together, it was quite a thrill to see them perform on the nearly-forgotten ABC sketch comedy show Fridays. That was my first exposure to the power trio that was so huge in the UK, but so hopelessly obscure (at the time, in the great Midwest, at least) here in the States.
That American performance (they did “Start” and “Private Hell”) isn’t on The Complete Jam, but damn near everything else is. All the videos, of course, as well as a whole slew of TV appearances, along with two scrapbooks, and a brief documentary. For Jam geeks, it’s a necessity, but how has this held up over time?
The music? Just fine, thank you. Listening to the angular Mod freakout of tracks like “Art School” and “Strange Town,” it’s a little bewildering to remember that main Jam man Paul Weller fought comparisons to Pete Townsend so vigorously. Come on, Paul, we have ears. And the gradual shift to the Motown-inspired Britpop of “Absolute Beginners” and “Town Called Malice” is quite entertaining to watch in the chronological sense we have here.
The videos? Er… well…
This isn’t exactly anyone’s fault, of course. MTV was a gleam in some programming guy’s eye at that point, and the odds that this stuff would be seen more than once or twice on some TV show were, seemingly, remote. It’s a kick to see this stuff, but it gets monotonous quickly. Even the improvements of assigning a storyline to “The Bitterest Pill” can’t overcome the amateurishness of these clips. Which makes this necessary for Jam nuts, but not anyone else.
Also, one technical beef. The packaging lists this DVD as being in Dolby 5.1 Surround, which leads one to believe these tracks have been remixed for six channel surround, a’la The Cure’s Greatest Hits DVD. While it’s technically correct that 5.1 technology is utilized, all Universal did was take the crappy, mono, muffled original sound and plop it into all six speakers. Thanks, guys.