Apr 062010

Please explain.

I dig The Jam as much as most of you. Sure, I’ve got my beefs with drummer Rick Buckler, but I have given him props for his running skills. I can’t stand The Style Council, but that doesn’t color my views on The Jam or Paul Weller’s solo career. I’m not a fan of bassist Bruce Foxton’s bass tone, and that does factor into what I’m about to say.

What do you people hear in All Mod Cons that makes it your most beloved Jam album?

This was the first Jam album I bought. I was really excited. The cover was pretty cool. The back cover featured Weller’s Rickenbacker, a guitar that is always a treat for Anglophile teenage boys to gaze upon. The title track and “To Be Someone” were an outstanding 1-2 punch! Then came “Mr. Clean,” the first of too many Kinks-inspired character studies. The Kinks had filled the quota on “Mr. [insert middle-class characteristic]” songs by 1972. I knew we were living in a new age and I was part of a new generation learning about those Kinks songs, but “Mr. Clean” would quickly be one too many songs in this genre.

Next came a cover of one of the Klassic Kinks character studies, “David Watts.” Very cool! I was still learning about The Kinks, and I’d yet to hear their original. Shortly after buying All Mod Cons I’d pick up Kinks Kronikles. Thanks for turning me onto the original, Jam!

Then came possibly the most annoying song I’ve heard to this day, “English Rose.” It’s been reported that Paul McCartney smashed the acoustic guitar he composed “Blackbird” on after after hearing that sappy turd! How about that line – how’s it go – “For no buns could ever tempt me from she.” UGH! If ever there was a song that pointed toward the future horrors of The Style Council it was “English Rose.” Until just now I’ve avoided listening to that song for the last 20 years. I forgot about the key change and cheesy echo that kicks in on Weller’s voice right before that point. I’m not the world’s most sensitive guy, and this song’s proof of that. Thank god for the majestic “In the Crowd,” which follows, or I may have tossed All Mod Cons for that one song alone long ago.

Side two opens with an immediate needle-lifter, “Billy Hunt.” On later albums Weller would learn to bury his obligatory needle-lifting soccer chants in the middle of either album side. “Billy Hunt” is a courtesty flush-worthy turd.

“It’s Too Bad” is a winner, the kind of peppy, poppy album track that makes up for the obligatory soccer chants. Then comes the delicate, fingerpicked, acoustic opening to “Fly,” which quickly becomes a preview for the type of Jam songs that dominate their next album (and my favorite), Setting Sons. I’m a sucker, in particular, for the harmony guitar breaks that set up the coda. Good one!

“The Place I Love” has a great opening guitar riff, but it’s always on the verge of turning into one of those soccer chants. Not a bad song, but the sweeping minor-chord change that comes out of each verse is done much better on numerous songs on Setting Sons.

I believe a lot of All Mod Cons fans dig “‘A’ Bomb in Wardour Street.” It’s a song I wanted to like a lot as a kid because it’s got a lot of muscular switches from the I to IV chords, but inevitably it strikes me as melodramatic and humorless, and I find I’d rather listen to The Clash play “Janie Jones” one more time.

The album ends with another song the 16-year-old me once thought he was going to like a lot, “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight.” There are still things I like about it, but it goes on for a 1:30 too long and between the swishy hi-hats and the tinny bass sound this song’s got no chance. Once again, Weller would take these musical ideas and recraft them with a fuller sound on Setting Sons.

I think I’ve only got one other friend who agrees with me that Setting Sons is the band’s best band album, and I can’t imagine E. Pluribus Gergely will step forward to show his support until late June. He knows what I’m talking about: the album’s got some bottom and there are so many guitar overdubs that they sound like a quartet. Some of my dearest friends prefer All Mod Cons to that album and my other favorite Jam album, Sound Affects. I don’t hate this album – it ranks #4 in my book, after the aforementioned and the debut – but what do you fine people hear that makes All Mod Cons your favorite?


Desparately Seeking Friends Who Prefer Setting Sons


  13 Responses to “Please Explain: What Do You People Hear in All Mod Cons That Makes It Your Most Beloved Jam Album?”

  1. It’s not my favorite; I’m not sure what is, but probably Setting Sons.

    My guess is, it was so heralded mainly because “This Is the Modern World” was so blah. There was relief that they weren’t simply going to rewrite “In the City,” but thank GOD they also were going to come up with something better than “Don’t Tell Them You’re Sane.”

  2. BigSteve

    I really like This Is the Modern World, especially that song Life from a Window. I don’t think I’d claim it’s their best, but it’s my favorite.

  3. Mr. Moderator

    Mmmm, I guess less of you than I imagined prefer All Mod Cons over all other Jam albums. If that’s the case, nevermind:)

  4. Sorry for where I put my finger. I could have sworn it was on the pulse of RTH. Figured almost all would defend Sound Affects. Start, Pretty Green, But I’m Different Now: that one has so many good songs. Not one cringe-worthy one either. That with “In the City” would make an outstanding, if illogical, two-fer.

  5. I prefer Setting Sons too. I guess All Mod Cons was so highly rated at the time (by me, too) because they really found their own sound here; it was a big step forward compared to their first 2 albums.

  6. misterioso

    Mod, no time to get into it in detail now. I don’t have much to say in defense of Billy Hunt. English Rose is definitely–well–jejune. But you need to listen again. Buns are not mentioned. “Bonds” are. Doesn’t excuse the cheesy key change or dreamy echo, to be sure. Part of my attachment to AMC is also habitual and sentimental–it was the first Jam album I got. I have no issues, really, with Setting Sons or Sound Affects standing with it. Despite what I said before. Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself.

  7. mockcarr

    If I had to pick one Jam album it would be Setting Sons also, but their first album, as with so many bands, just has that rawness that overwhelms it’s deficiencies.

    It’s a bit odd how many bass players I like who have a tone I can’t stand. Man, Entwistle needs a little purgatory time!

  8. hrrundivbakshi

    I dunno, Mod. Lots of Jam stuff hasn’t aged well for me. I used to like “Setting Sons” best, too, but it’s one of the Jam LPs that sounds the most “Jam Formula” to me now. At least “All Mod Cons” was the first LP in that style, so I have happy memories of it being a real game-changer. “SS” is just more of the same, executed with more consistency. Consistency isn’t better-ness. And I maintain that “SS” was the only album of theirs that suffers from sameness. Check it:

    In the City — Brash, loud, naive, novel
    Modern World — Smug, loud, naive, stupid
    All Mod Cons — Smart, thoughtful, identity-founding, novel
    Setting Sons — See above, without much thoughtfulness or novelty, and focused on identity *maintenance*
    Sound Affects — Smart, thoughtful, fresh, new, identity-rejuvenating
    The Gift — Strident, flawed, over-ambitious, identity-developing

    I have spoken. In tortured analysis that probably doesn’t make much sense to anyone but me, but I have spoken.

  9. Mr. Moderator

    I get what you’re saying, HVB – and others have also been helpful in helping me undstand this long-troubling issue. Thanks. Your point about consistency is valid (and related to the point I was mockcarred for in another thread, the one in which I said that not all songs need to be great to make a great album). I just like the way Setting Sons sounds more meaty, beaty, big, and bouncy. Sound Affects should have been the best album, but it’s got a lot of filler!

  10. BigSteve

    This thread has forced me to accept an unexpected conclusion — I have no desire to actually listen to The Jam anymore. Lots of interesting comments so far, but there’s no way I’m going to go back and check my current responses against my memories. Weird.

    I noticed that several people here said their choice of favorite Jam album is based on how it hit them at the time of its release and what age they were then. Maybe The Jam is for some reason frozen in their era more solidly than other bands.

  11. I’d be torn between Setting Sons & Sound Affects, but like Steve, I really NEVER listen to this band any more, and don’t have any desire to do so even after thinking about these albums. I used to LOVE them, too, but now those records really are the “preserved moose” of my youth. It’s just not that interesting to me now.

  12. mockcarr

    I’ll write this in the one-sentence stylee of the modern sportswriter:

    A few years ago, I was compelled to participate in a karaoke night at a bar.

    Of all things to find on the DJ’s list, I discovered Going Underground.

    I sang only a few of the many notes and shouted the rest.

    Some guy shook my hand afterward, saying he’d never heard anyone do that song.

    I thought I was really terrible, but it didn’t matter then, because I had figured NO ONE would know what the hell song I was doing up there.

  13. bostonhistorian

    The Jam has come up in a few conversations with friends recently, and the consensus is that none of The Jam has aged well, and most of it has to do with how thin they sound and the fact that while each album might have one or two good songs, the lows are really really terrible. Elton John would be ashamed to sing English Rose, I think.

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