Music

The Jam - "Town Called Malice" (Singles Going Steady Classic)

"Town Called Malice" is Paul Weller's love letter to soul music, and it's a damn flawless one.

Chris Ingalls: Oh, hell yeah. The Jam made albums for roughly five years before Paul Weller suddenly broke up the band in order to form the dance/jazz/funk combo the Style Council, and the seeds of that new band were evident in later Jam songs like this one. Largely dismissing his British Invasion heroes in favor of his R&B ones, "Town Called Malice" is Weller's love letter to soul music, and it's a damn flawless one -- probably their best single out of many fantastic ones. British working class woes are chronicled ("To either cut down on beer or the kids' new gear") with the help of joyous organ, Bruce Foxton's bouncy bass line and Rick Buckler's tight yet manic drumming. Pure perfection. [10/10]

Ian King: There's a clip in one of the Paul Weller documentaries -- I believe Into Tomorrow, which seems to have been taken off YouTube, but Highlights and Hang-Ups is still on there and that one is good, too -- that captures the one time Paul Weller was really lost in the woods. The Style Council may not have won over every fan of the Jam, but they were big in their own right for most of the '80s, and their best songs have aged better than one might presume. The Style Council did not end well, though. They tried on one too many new outfits, both music-wise and fashion-wise, and label and fan interest seemed to dry up rather quickly. The clip in question is taken from a small acoustic show, I believe at a college, attended primarily by students who would have been in elementary school when the Jam broke up. Weller is on stage wearing a baggy T-shirt and shorts, as casual as the kids in front of him. It's almost unbelievable seeing this British style icon dressed as if he just came in from playing ultimate frisbee. It is truly as if he doesn't even know who he is anymore, but he hasn't forgotten entirely. He and the one other musician he brought along are strumming their way through a bouncy "Town Called Malice". The audience, modest in number, are psyched to hear it. Even in this moment, stripped of its Motown/Mod power, the furthest Weller may have ever been removed from the two or three heydays that he has had, it is still a great tune. [9/10]

Emmanuel Elone: The late '70s and early '80s were a great era for punk rock. In the US, there were the Ramones, Misfits, and Dead Kennedys, while the UK had the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and the Jam. "Town Called Malice" is in many regards the best example of how to make punk music accessible to a mainstream audience. While the group retained the simple guitar riffs that characterize punk, they were not too abrasive or lo-fi to drive away its radio single potential. Paul Weller's singing is riveting as well, with a great vocal melody and plenty of energy to boot. While groups like Blink-182 and Green Day would later on dominate the charts with punk-pop hits, none match the excitement of "Town Called Malice". [8/10]

John Bergstrom: This sounds more like Motown than Motown did in 1982. Just to make sure everyone knows they're still "too British" to make it in America, Paul Weller includes the line, "stop apologizing / for the things you've never done". The lyrics are probably political as well, 'cause that's what Weller was into at the time. But with that rhythm, who's really paying attention? And to imagine that rhythm section would wind up, decades later, playing in a cover band called "From the Jam". Not all Weller's attempts to do "black music" worked. This one did. [8/10]

Chad Miller: The tune sounds pleasantly familiar, but it also surprises along the way. The drums are perfect here, really driving the song along, and the vocals are extremely catchy. All the separate parts in this song work really well together, and there's never a dead moment. [9/10]

SCORE: 8.80

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