Sunday, October 15, 2006

Liner Notables #6: The Jam - Dig The New Breed

Why, it seems like only yesterday [cue harp and wavy, out-of-focus visuals] when you could pore over an album's liner notes and not have to squint to garner an embarrassment of riches and a treasure trove of tidbits...  

“ELECTRICALLY RECORDED LIVE - play it on all phonographs” reads the cover of Dig The New Breed, a lovely parting gift from the Jam in the form of a career-spanning live LP of more substance than Style Council.

The instructional tip of sorts comprises a ton of tongue-in-cheek sanctioned sass sustaining the kind of flippancy found in a couple earlier ad campaigns for other artists. “The ’80s - We’re For It!” proclaims Devo without equivocation of their dawn-of-a-new-decade release, Freedom Of Choice. “20 New Songs - All Different!!!” touts Columbia Records for Elvis Costello’s Get Happy!!!” Furthermore, the logical extension of such impertinence saw titular tomfoolery in a Sugar album Bob Mould called File Under: Easy Listening.

Whatever the trend, by the time the Jam came along there was also a tacit, if not tranquil understanding that, in addition to the pan-phonographibility of an LP, one should play one's album loud. But could record commentary be read out loud? It would almost seem to be demanded with Dig The New Breed as main Jam man Paul Weller, in a three-part harmony of shared liner-notational endeavor by the trio, tries to set the tone with a spirited and fast-forwarded flashback and incantation:

    A brief six years! Sweaty frantic Red Cow residency, 1st week 50 people, 2nd week 100, by the 4th week a queue around the block! SWITCH the Marquee with Shane, Claudio and Adrian dancing on stage to the confusion of the usual Marquee hippies! SWITCH the first tour, traveling in this red Cortina for hours and having to learn to walk again when you got out! SWITCH Dunstable and that hotel?! SWITCH QUICKLY! Making the first LP in 5 days or something, vocal tracks done in a lift! SWITCH Actually being on Top of the Pops!! SWITCH…

Now, that’s entertainment! Not so much, though, when it comes to the appreciative but prosaic stiff-upper-lip offerings from the other two members of the pioneering British -- and so very, very British -- punk band.

Bassist Bruce Foxton alludes to, in a generalized manner, memories and emotions running high, then goes on to virtually demand that the Jam be treated with RESPECT. Uppercase, almost Aretha-style R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Then, before offering his indebtedness and thanks to the trio’s long-time backers, Foxton declares that “Loyalty from the fans has always surprised and amazed me. Traveling around the world to give us the support we badly needed in places such as the States.”

Drummer Rick Buckler proves to be even more a master of fractured and fragmented sentence structure. In arguing that Dig gives more than “‘just an account of songs played live,’” or is a “‘Greatest Hits’ type album,” he discloses that “I have never been a great fan of live albums that try to emulate a studio recording with a cast of thousands, but instead a more basic and honest account.”

Um, let’s make the…

    “…SWITCH the Sound Effects tour. SWITCH ‘81 was a ‘orrible year for songs! SWITCH cracking up over the GIFT LP, I wanted it perfect, but settled for good, oh well! SWITCH the noise those Japanese kids make, fantastic! SWITCH Chicago gig, brilliant! SWITCH What have I learnt? BELIEF IS ALL!”
Thanks Paul, though we believed all along, it's good to hear commitment so vigorously and distinctively expressed, and see doubt and apprehension succumb to the "beat surrender" with such steadiness. After all, "as it was in the beginning, so shall it be in the end." 


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