Top critical review
The last days of the Jam
on 14 May 2010
I don't claim to be a big fan of The Jam, and I can only claim that they produced two great albums 'All Mod Cons' and 'Setting Sons'. Much of this album is so average, I find it hard to understand why it is so revered and so highly rated. For me it is only saved by the two single tracks; 'Start!' and 'That's Entertainment'.
With six albums released in five years, each one of the Jam's albums is a distinct stage on Paul Weller's journey from callow, Thatcher-supporting yoof to mature writer with more on his mind than just teenage angst and political disatisfaction. This, their fifth effort, often vies for the title of their best; the other candidate of course being 1978's All Mod Cons. But whereas AMC is a heady slice of proto-Britpop, wearing its sensitivity and social comment (and debt to the Kinks) like badges, Sound Affects is a superb amalgam of funk and mid-60s psychedelic rock. All sprinkled with fantastic hooks and tight-as-you-like playing.
This was where Weller began moving towards the Britfunk of his next outfit, The Style Council. Horns began to enter the mix on tracks like Dreamtime while Bruce Foxton's bass on opener Pretty Green was a distinct move away from the bolshy four-four of previous work.
The band or should I say Weller had obviously opened their ears to more than just the Who and Ray Davies. Weller's lyrics were also more human and approachable. Several times he makes self-deprecating reference to his 'star' status (Boy About Town) and also the acceptance of the healing power of love (But I'm Different Now). Only on Set The House Ablaze (which sounds like an out take from their previous album, Setting Sons) does he sound like he's treading water. The album is probably the bands most varied and surprising record mixing short,g iddy bursts of pop mixed with melancholy songs of the unchanging human condition "whlist stil focusing on tough social and political writing isues.
The sound here has post punk and 60s psychedelia influences throughout but they never really overwhelm the record , its still very much a jam album and both bruce foxton and rick buckler show here what fantastic supporting players they were for Weller, Which is a shame because I thing if Bruce and Rick were given the opportunity the Jam could have so much More. Ultimately Sound Affects shows a band that was being pushed by its leader slightly beyond their level of ability. Buckler and Foxton's propulsive acumen was already falling behind Weller's ambitions and direction After the full-on soul revival of The Gift he was to abandon the three-piece for pastures new. But on this album you get to hear the Jam at their post peak before their demise.
Sound Affects, it is ultimately more of a pop album than its four predecessors.,
Wellers incisive buzzsaw guitar is often relegated to the background in favour of Bruce Foxtons melodic and hummable basslines. Much of the album is instantly accessible and the anger has gone. The album is very polished but, for all its accessibility, the tracklist often dips into more experimental territory, and also explores an almost-psychedelic sonic template in places, augmented with layered instruments.
This Album was created and improvised in the studio with only a few ideas for lyrics and chord sequences. The in situ creation of Sound Affects resulted in an inconsistent record with different moods and atmospheres unique to each track, giving a slightly incohesive feel. However this didn t stop the album selling 100,000 plus copies. End of year polls in 1980 placed the band at the forefront of the British music scene. Despite all this, Sound Affects proved to be their penultimate album; it was the beginning of the end for The Jam.
Sound Affects was released in November 1980, following the lead-off No.1 Start!, and was the follow-up to the success of 1979 album Setting Sons and the famous single that followed that album Going Underground. Sound Affects bore a lot less of a punk or mod influence than the albums that went before it, and was the first Jam album to not contain a cover version on it. It doesnt sound like previous records in most ways, and in many ways some of the instrumentation is odd-sounding and abrasive, yet somehow virtually all the songs are catchy and contain some sort of hook.
It is difficult to look at the album as inconsistent although virtually every track is memorable yet confusing why. Obviously there are the fan-favourites forming the backbone. Pretty Green is a thundering opener with a strong one-note bassline and catchy verse lyrics. The stop-start dynamics of the song immediately catch the attention, despite the song being quite weak when taken out of album context. .
The record only is only memorable because virtually all the songs contain a brilliant chorus. Throughout the tracks there is experimentation in intros and verses. Riffs are played in a way that sounds backwards, there is the odd funk bassline dotted around, vocal follow odd patterns, there are large psychedelic-sounding verses, but all the tracks pull together for choruses with memorable vocal lines.
Sound Affects Blatantly highlights that the state of the band at the time Buckler and Foxton were uncomfortable leaving the signature Jam sound behind, whereas Paul Weller was uncomfortable with his celebrity status and growing tired on his audience (and band mates) narrow minds. One album after this The Jam would be over,.
So ask your self the question Weller "A spokes person for a generation a disenchanted youth"- Was her really or was he just pretending.
A spoilt kid who got lucky and perhaps a well deserved break who then threw his dummy out of the pram.
For the real Jam all you need is All Mod Cons and Setting Sons.
Weller the Champagne Socialist