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The Jam cement their place as the most exciting band of the time.,
This review is from: Setting Sons (Audio CD)
This album released in 1979 when Paul Weller was a mere 22 years old was originally intended to be a concept album with a common theme running through it, that of putting away the childish and nostalgic things in life in favour of growing up and embracing the corporate world. Naturally, those who are familiar with Weller's writing will know that he laments the tendency to do this and his English nostalgia is one of his most notorious features. Some of the tracks on this album, such as Burning Sky, Thick as Thieves, The Eton Rifles and Wasteland are written in this mould and each comments upon this theme in some way. Legend has it that Weller intended the whole album to reflect this theme but he ran out of time and material and consequently filled the rest of the album with other tracks, many of which were essentially made up on the spot by Weller building upon bass and drum jams by Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler. The result of this are the inclusion of tracks such as Girl on the Phone, Private Hell, Saturday's Kids and Little Boy Soldiers which do not follow the same theme as the others. Knowing Weller's admiration for the Beatles and given that their Sgt Peppers album was originally intended as a concept album but ened up only half complete this may have been a deliberate emulation.
Nevertheless, the album is exquisite. The bass driven power of the harmonies show that Bruce Foxton was an essential contributor to the Jam sound and gone is the brash angst usually associated with bands of the late 70s, instead it is replaced by controlled guitar playing which loses none of the power but which shows Weller's emerging maturity as a player, loud and harsh is not necessarily better.
The real joy of the album however and what makes it stand head and shoulders above the other Jam albums are the lyrics. They are superb. Weller shows that even at such a young age he was a highly accomplished poet. The words of Thick as Thieves have been identified by the poet Simon Armitage as an exquisite example of British poetry, and quite righly so...
"We stole the love from young girls in ivory towers
We stole autumn leaves and summer showers
We stole the silent wind that says you are free
We stole everything that we could see...
We stole the burning sun in the open sky
We stole the twinkling stars in the black night
We stole the greenbelt fields that made us believe
We stole everything that we could see
But something came along and changed our minds
I don't know what and I don't know why
But we seemed to grow up in a flash of time
And we watched out ideals helplessly unwind..."