Will the Jam's archives ever be truly exhausted? And, more to the point, will there ever come a time when the latest exhumation doesn't fill the listener (or, in this case, the viewer) with a sense of profound regret that the band's story ended so swiftly? Following hot on the heels of the band's BBC radio collection, The Complete Jam serves up a staggering 49 performances, divided between 16 promotional videos (previously available on the |Video Snap VHS collection), a seven-song excerpt from a 1980 live show, and a staggering 26 more drawn from the best of the band's television performances, ranging from their U.K. debut on Marc Bolan's fondly remembered Marc through to their nine-song farewell performance on The Tube. A couple of entertaining interviews, a photo gallery, and a short (and, sadly, very poorly narrated) documentary on the band's history complete the portrait. It's the early TV performances that impress the most. The Jam's early years, after all, were spent locked into a state of indecision, as they fought to divorce themselves from their original punk roots, yet had little idea of what they wanted to replace them with. Even after all these years, there remains an absolutely contagious and touchingly naïve energy and enthusiasm to the smartly besuited act that pounds through "All Around the World," "In the City," "Canaby Street," and "Billy Hunt" and a brittle excitement that the later broadcasts simply cannot match. But the later material, once Weller had found his own feet as a songwriter (as opposed to simply stamping on Pete Townshend and Berry Gordy's), is certainly superior to the innocent thrashing of old, and there are moments where the Jam stand peerless among their contemporaries -- the hyperactive guitar that churns through a German TV rendition of "Start," for example, or a blistering 1981 showing on Sweden's Mandagsborsen. The promos, too, definitely improved as time went on, although there is certainly an awkwardness in the band's (especially Weller's) attempts to compete with the early-'80s giants of the video medium. That said, "The Bitterest Pill" remains a touching memory for anyone who saw it the first time around, while the stark simplicity of "That's Entertainment" is as evocative as the song's lyric. Among the extras, meanwhile, the ability to view the entire program in chronological order (via the time line feature) is the most useful bonus, illustrating the group's growth as breathlessly and seamlessly as it seemed to occur in the first place. But, however you choose to watch the two discs, The Complete Jam stands among the most fulfilled and fulfilling DVDs of its type and for all that Weller and, to an unjustly lesser extent, Bruce Foxton went on to accomplish, the feeling that things simply couldn't get any better than this is brought home in living color.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2