Sep 052023
lifeguard in the city

There has been some indignation on these pages recently that some cherished British Bands were ‘One Hit Wonders’ in the US, but there is no accounting for taste. However the offence caused to Dexy’s Midnight Runners and Siouxsie and the Banshees is nothing compared to that experienced by The Jam. Multiple number-one singles and albums in the UK, and an ongoing cottage industry in the UK detailing their every move between 1976 and 1983, mean nothing to the Billboard Singles Charts. The band never got a single into the top 100. However, the kids know where it’s at.  Helping spread the Jam gospel, Chicago punk trio Lifeguard bring us their cover of “In The City.”

This song was The Jam’s first single and was an announcement of a band that arrived fully formed. Modelling themselves clearly on The Who the band had a look and a sound, along with production techniques, which recalled the “My Generation”-era of their heroes. What they added was a layer of late ’70s punk, in both the sound and the message. There is guitar distortion and an edge to Paul Weller’s voice, and his harmonies with Bruce Foxton. Some of the messages were universal, such as teenage frustration at not being taken seriously, and others are more specific. Fear of the police is more of a problem in some places than others, but has not decreased since the original song was released.

Lifeguard said that the song’s messages say everything that they needed to say and this is what brought them to the song. It is a staple of their live act. They recorded in Steve Albini’s studio, which brings history of a particular type. The band concentrates on the punk message and ethos, with less reference to The Who. By recording live they bring immediacy to the sound, with the ’60s mixing and production not required. They nevertheless make full use of the sonic possibilities of the distorted guitar, and driving bass. The choice of Albini and the pastiche of the look of The Jam demonstrate that Lifeguard are as keen to curate their story as The Jam once were. Perhaps they can even have a hit one day.

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  One Response to “Lifeguard Take Jam Song “In the City” to Chicago”

Comments (1)
  1. Could they look more bored while they’re doing it? The Jam would embarrassed to have it covered . . .

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