The Gift was to be the final Studio album cut by The Jam, and it simply showcases how Weller ambitions had massively outgrown the band. In places it sounds like a Style Council record that has Foxton and Buckler looking over their shoulders and glancing at the spots their musical ideas where when they began. Because they had little to contribute by this point. It is not necessarily their fault – Weller has come up with some textures and grooves that are totally un-Jam like, in the same way that Pete Townshend brought along influences for the recording of The Who’s “Who Are You” that left many band members (especially Keith Moon) stranded. When that happens, a band takes its last bows and walks offstage.
These style excursions that do not work include “The Planner’s Dreams Go Wrong” and “Circus”, while “Running On The Spot” has potential that is never realized. Still, some compositions do work out to a lesser or bigger extent – “Precious” is quite effective, and the monster hit “Town Called Malice” gave everybody high hopes for the album (it was released some time ahead of the record, coupled with “Precious”). For its part, the soulful title track falls somewhere in the middle.
At any rate, we should never forget this is the album that has “Just Who Is The 5 O’Clock Hero?”, a song that was released as a single in Germany and which became a British import hit (it actually remains the best selling import in the history of England). The song is not without charm, but Bruce and Rick sound like mere bit-players. Weller himself said he was happier with a demo he had assembled.
Leaving aside the stylistic detours that pay off, when the band sticks to its “classic” sound the results are consistently good. “Happy Together” and “Ghosts” (the two tracks that are placed at the beginning) are compelling in their round sound, with Ghosts in particular standing as the most fragile moment of Paul on record. The song goes hand in hand with “Carnation”, a conversation between two halves of the same person in which the vulnerability of “Ghosts” is buried beneath a self veneer of arrogant impetus.
At the end of the day, the break up of the band is now seen as a well-timed one. They went as far as they could, and that was it. For his next band, Weller would carry on beyond the point of reasonability and the results were to be disastrous. We should be glad that The Jam did never really tarnish their reputation, and that their legacy is mostly coherent. Their parting record shows us the reason they had to say goodbye. They decided to show that to us. Not many artists do that, and not that many within the public do care. But The Jam and its public did. This was the obvious way their time together would end.
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