For many bands that make an instant impact, the first album can be hard to match - the energy and excitement is difficult to maintain once success arrives. For those looking to leave a longer lasting legacy, there tends to be a slow maturing rather than the Icarus-like success some achieve.
The Jam are very much in the former category and 30 years after the band controversially called it a day - all of their albums have been released in a box set. It's a chance to listen to the remarkable progression from 1977 to 1982 over six increasingly impressive albums.
Released within the space of a few months of each other In The City and This Is The Modern World are cut from the same cloth, raw British rock with a sixties feel - with Paul Weller sounding narky and about to start a pub brawl at almost everyone corner. But hearing Batman reminds us Weller did once seem to be enjoying himself, and not always taking himself too seriously, while Modern World's Tonight At Noon displays early signs of a melodic ear.
That melody appreciation begins to come to the fore on 1978's All Mod Cons, which was the lift off towards eventual legend status for the band and Weller. The raw playing is still there but the vocal is more soulful on To Be Someone for example, with its talk of aspirations about being number one. Hit singles Down In A Tube Station At Midnight and David Watts helped break America and sees Weller's confidence soar.
Ambitions grow with the part concept album Setting Sons a year later. Once strings arrive on a band's palette, you know bigger things are intended and the likes of Smithers Jones reach beyond the band's previously drum and guitar dominate sound. The Eton Rifles produced their biggest hit single to date and The Jam were suddenly the nation's favourite.
Starting a trend that has repeated itself over the course of his career, Weller then throws a slight curve ball and Sound Affects arrival in 1980 saw the singer looking at the likes of Michael Jackson's Off The Wall for inspiration. Weller considers it possibly his favourite Jam album and the maturing song writing is evident in classics like That's Entertainment and the Beatles pilfering Start, while Dream Time and Music For The Last Couple have a wonderful bass driven funk.
Just as the band were at their peak, Weller pulled the rug from fans' feet with The Gift being The Jam's last album - as the tension it caused between the three members became too much. Possibly their best album and surprisingly their only number one, the transition to the soul and pop of The Style Council now does not seem such a leap. You can hear those influences on Precious and Circus as reggae and dance rhythms arrive. For those that had been on board since In The City it was all a bit much but it was the start of an amazing career for Weller, who still to this day manages to delight and surprise.Suggest a correction