The Jam did not have an easy start as a group. Their first two albums bombed critically, despite selling well, and there were large troubles recording this, their third album. Songwriter/guitarist Paul Weller had writer’s block and also the initial sessions were so bad that all their songs from there were junked. Fortunately, this is the first album by The Jam worth paying attention to, and it has won critical acclaim for its vast leap ahead in Paul Weller’s songwriting and the group’s overall musicianship. In a way, The Jam proved that they were a force of nature above the Punk label of the time, and were just a musical group like any other, rather than being specifically a Punk outlet. All the same, let’s hear this album now and judge if it is decent or not.
All Mod Cons begins with a count-in, followed by pounding drums and a raw and abrasive sound. Upon hearing this, one is deeply reminded of Skate Punk which emerged in the late 1990s. This is a short and nicely structured piece that is short and bittersweet, being just over a minute long. A good start to this album, it just sounds great.
To Be Someone (Didn’t We Have A Nice Time) follows and begins with glorious Rickenbacker guitars and chugging basslines. This is about being personally important in a superficial world. Once again, the track is super short, it’s barely two and a half minutes long. The stripped-back instrumentation does owe somewhat to the Punk of the day, but this differs from obviously Punk bands such as The Sex Pistols and The Clash. A good and witty piece of poetic lyrics set to music, this is interesting listening. It sounds super angry towards the end, before concluding with some clean chords. Nice.
Mr. Clean begins with some chugging bass guitar parts and some nice and quiet electric guitar playing just before this tune gets underway. When it does, Paul Weller makes his voice heard about day to day social issues which bother him. It does borrow from Punk and the ethos of Punk musicality. There is an intricate midsection with some multitracked acoustic guitars, before launching back into the action. This is an urban dystopian sort of anthem. Take note that the UK in the late 1970s wasn’t the best place to be in, due primarily to the Winter Of Discontent (Google that if you are not aware of it). The song finishes with clean guitar parts and a basic drum beat before finishing. Good effort.
David Watts is a cover of the Kinks song. Fortunately, The Jam do it justice and it sounds like an original, rather than a simple cover. This was the turning point for The Jam, being the cover that reinspired Paul Weller to write better songs for this album. An upbeat and pounding tune that really sounds terrific. This version makes the original more aggressive, interesting and uptempo. A great song made even better by The Jam’s version, this is an essential listen from this album. One can easily listen to this on repeat. Excellent work. It ends with repeated harmonies, always delightful to hear.
English Rose is next, and it was barely acknowledged in the early issues of the album. Nonetheless, it is here now. As you can guess, it is a love song. It begins with rushing seawater, followed by ship horns and other ghostly sounds to match. Some finger-picked acoustic guitar follows, and this is a raw and pretty tune that Paul Weller never should have been ashamed of writing or performing. Why? It’s a very good song that really should be listened to by fans of Punk and many other guitar-based music fans. It’s a really good piece of music with a key change in the second half, and this is a gentle and relaxing piece of music. Feel no shame, Paul Weller, this is great music.
In The Crowd – Full Version follows and is back to the studio with the band. This is a more typical piece of music about being lost in society, and the effects that one can feel from such a thing. A really good song, once again, Paul Weller takes Punk and similarly stripped-down Rock music styles to their next and more intellectual peak. There are some pretty overdubs of dual electric guitar parts here before it launches straight back into the verses. There is a moral lesson from this song, which is to stand out from the mediocrity of the human race. This sounds very well done and melodic and is a good listen when you get annoyed with others who think alike. The second half has some wailing reversed guitar sections that sound nicely mixed, and are probably a nod to The Beatles Revolver efforts. A very good listen from start to finish, this is fantastic. A really interesting musical journey, this sounds different and more deserving of attention than it gets. Great music, the reversed guitars continue all the way through to the fade-out. Interesting tune.
Billy Hunt begins with some aggressive guitar riffs, before going straight into another English tale. An interesting lyrical piece to listen to, it is short and bittersweet at three minutes long. This is a really solid and fun listening experience that is quite interesting and fast-paced. There are some good guitar solos that have some nice feedback, before launching back into the tale at hand. A good example of where music is a trendsetter, rather than being a follower with trends. These songs should be covered, if not done so already. A good listen, there are energetic drum rolls before feedback guitars finish this off. Awesome.
It’s Too Bad begins with some synchronised guitar and bass guitar, quickly going into another angry young man styled tune. Very short, at under three minutes long, there are some chiming guitar parts throughout. This is an excellent song that fits the album well, it just does justice for the listener. The Rickenbacker guitar tones are a nod again to The Beatles, but the intent is clearly different musically than whatever The Fab Four did. Towards the end are some chanted vocals and some nice guitar playing, good work here.
Fly begins with some gentle, nice and pretty acoustic guitar. This is a genuinely good piece of music and Paul Weller sings about male sexual lust that is much more moderate than what Gangsta Rappers do today. Soon enough, it launches into a rather bizarre song about fanciful desires with an eye of the beholder sort of attitude. Any young male would no doubt connect with such feelings that Paul Weller was expressing in this song, it’s not overly sexist, despite being about male lust. This is another exploration and decent tune for those who like their music very simple. Good modern musings of a borderline poet, one should applaud The Jam here for being rather bold in their song statements. Good tune.
The Place I Love begins with a great guitar riff, before quickly launching into a brilliantly upbeat and awesome tune. The song is sung about a paradise that one dreams of getting away to. Many people dream of going to a tropical island offshore to live, like one’s own Bali. Still, this is a good tune to hear and Paul Weller’s songwriting here is just excellent for a Punk inspired band. A great song and a reminder of a time when Union led chaos in the UK made those who had money wish to go elsewhere. Good tune all the same though. Catchy from start to finish.
‘A’ Bomb In Wardour Street launches right into a catchy and fun tune to listen to that sounds really punchy. Brilliant piece of music that is headbanging inducing and makes for a good listen every time. This is another great tune that is adventurous and full of sonic surprises. Again, this is under three minutes and it sounds very accomplished. A fairly groovy tune, this ends with some chaotic sounds and guitar soloing. Excellent.
Down In The Tube Station At Midnight – Full Version is the last track on this album. It begins with the sound of wind rushing from a subway station before The Jam enters with Paul Weller and co. singing and playing beautifully. This is likely the standout tune from the entire album, it seems these guys left the best to last. A great song about paranoia and isolation in an urban setting. A really weird sort of event is told by Paul Weller. Indeed, Paul Weller comes across as a modern-day poet. He makes a political statement here against right-wing thugs who beat up others for money. Bear in mind that is merely his view. A really great song penned by The Jam, they now had a bright future ahead of them as a band. This song ends with more train sounds, a short snippet of this song instrumentally and a nice fade out. Top stuff.
This is really quite a good album. It may not be seen as heroic as releases from The Sex Pistols or The Clash, which were actually a little better than this, but it has enough magic, inspiration and musicality to be something to come and go back to from time to time. The Jam’s luck improved from this point onwards and although later releases were even better, this is where you should start with Paul Weller’s music. Worth hearing.
Modern-day poetry for angry young men.