Monday, November 30, 2015

Review: 'The Jam: About the Young Idea'

There aren’t a lot of artists who can claim they inspired an entire musical movement, at least not after the sixties when The Beatles, Beach Boys, Dylan, James Brown, Hendrix, The Who, and quite a few others each marched through the decade followed by a parade of pretenders. The Jam are one of the few late-seventies bands that can claim they got a movement going when their power-pop spin on punk and Mod style inspired a ton of British groups to pick up Rickenbackers and look sharp. Those who weren’t as musically inclined just became the kinds of life-long, pop-as-lifestyle fans usually reserved for boring traveling acts like The Grateful Dead. So it’s fitting that fans get a good deal of screen time in the recent Sky TV documentary The Jam: About the Young Idea. This emphasis on the people who love Paul Weller, Bruce Foxton, and Rick Buckler is what distinguishes Bob Smeaton’s film from the usual by-numbers rock doc. The presence of fans such as fellow famous-guy Martin Freeman; Derek D’Souza, who ended up photographing the band professionally; Keiko Egawa, a fan who essentially moved from Japan to London so she could see The Jam live; and Dave Pottinger, a kid barely in his twenties whose blog continues the Jam-worship for a new generation—and somehow maintains his cool when he gets to interview Weller— is the heart and soul of About the Young Idea.

Weller, Foxton, and Buckler are also in attendance to walk us through their band’s history in more typical fashion, though there are also some nicely distinctive moments when the film’s stars are on screen, like when Weller and founding member Steve Brookes pull out their acoustic guitars to jam on some Everly Brothers and Larry Williams tunes. Long time fans probably won’t learn anything new, and any post break-up frictions are ignored (Foxton and Weller supposedly didn’t speak for twenty years after Weller quit the band at the height of their success), but they will certainly appreciate spending 90 minutes with their favorite band now-and-then (via classic archival stage and video footage). Most of all they should appreciate seeing themselves reflected on screen by a diverse lot of Jam fanatics.

Eagle Rock Entertainment’s new blu-ray of The Jam: About the Young Idea supplements the main feature with additional interview footage that finds Weller, Foxton, and Buckler visiting their boyhood homes; full performances by Weller and Brookes; and Pottinger’s complete interview with Weller. More essentially there are full-length performance clips from London’s Rainbow and NYC’s Ritz only seen in brief clips in the movie. The video is pretty blurry, but the audio is full-blooded. The big bonus on this set is an extra DVD featuring The Jam’s full performance on Germany’s Rockpalast in support of Sound Affects. The video is fairly rough but better than the bonus clips on the blu-ray and the audio is similarly excellent. So is the main attraction, who give a vital, intense performance. You may find yourself putting this extra feature into heavier rotation than the documentary it supports.

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