In later years, the Chords were often cursorily dismissed as little more than Jam copyists, and while there's no denying that the two groups traveled in very similar musical waters, both drawing from the British beat and Northern soul that filled their youths and sending it soaring through the prism of punk, it's there that the comparisons end. While Paul Weller coyly played footsy with both the punk and mod scenes, refusing to commit to either, there was no doubt that his soul lay with the latter, and regardless of the trio's aggressive punk-fueled delivery, his lyrics lacked punk's burning fury. Regardless of the class warfare related in "Eton Rifles," the racism reflected in "Down in the Tube Station," or the alienation of "Strange Town," no matter his country's evident flaws (and Weller etched them vividly), he still couldn't shake his love of his homeland and optimistic hope that her problems would eventually be solved. Guitarist and songwriter Chris Pope refused to see the world through the Jam's English rose-colored glasses, turning his own equally eloquent pen to scathing vignettes virtually the flip of Weller's own. In this respect, the Jam comparisons are red herrings, for if anything, Pope played the snottier, rebellious younger brother to Weller's more respectful good son.
This was apparent from the start with the Chords' debut 45, "Now It's Gone," where the group's dream of love is trampled underfoot, and driven home by its follow-up, "Maybe Tomorrow," which firmly puts the boot into the Jam's sanguine vision of Britain and turns it into a fascist horror. That single would kick off the group's sole album, So Far Away, 12 fierce tracks that defined mod's potential as punk's successor. Filled with fire and fury, the set skips from affairs of the heart to the pitiful state of the nation. Musically it's a revelation; the band's two guitarists give the group much more scope for aural assault than a trio, and with a much more aggressive rhythm section in tow, Far is as vociferous as many of its punk contemporaries. In fact, reviews threw bands like the Buzzcocks and the Undertones into the brew of the Chords' notable inspirations. For while the Chords' melodies were shaped by the '60s, their delivery was forged in punk, with even Sham 69's anthemic stomp stirred into the mix. This set reissues the stellar Far, a U.K. Top 30 album, in full, then tacks on all five of the original lineup's singles along with its B-sides, as well as the free 45 that was included with early copies of the album. The bonus tracks are helpfully sequenced in chronological order, and a full discography and excellent biography complete this phenomenal package. Of course, the two-CD This Is What They Want album made this set redundant, but if your wallet doesn't stretch that far, this will easily suffice.