When the Jam released its first LP 20 years ago, Paul Weller was denounced by his punk peers as a 60s revivalist, shamelessly copping riffs from the Who, the Kinks, and Motown. Now, enshrined in a five-CD box set, the Jam is lauded by third-generation Brit poppers Blur and Oasis. Meanwhile Weller has shed the horns, keyboards, and backup singers he added during the 80s and focused on a looser-limbed version of what the Jam always did best: mixing classic soul and Anglo guitar rock. His latest release, Heavy Soul (Island), lacks the songwriting of his '94 comeback Wild Wood, but the title couldn't be more apt: with its stripped-down rhythm section, fuzzed-out guitars, and numerous psychedelic flourishes, the record sounds like Crazy Horse banging out old Aretha Franklin tunes. It's a hazardous synthesis--easygoing numbers like "Friday Street" veer dangerously close to Hootie's rearview mirror--but the sneering "Peacock Suit" and volcanic "Brush" are the rudest sounds to come out of Weller since the Jam cranked up Setting Sons. Friday, 7:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield; 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212. J.R. JONES
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Lawrence Watson.