My views on The Jam, in a nutshell:
- Awesomely brilliant singles band.
- Can’t stand the whole mod thing.
- Their albums just don’t lift my schnift at all.
(Basically my views on The Who as well, but let’s not start that here)
I’ve owned Jam Setting Sons for almost 20 years now, I bought it in a 2 for £5 bin along with KISS Alive!* in Bridgwater, mostly because I loved the track ‘The Eton Rifles’ so much. I remember devouring the cover and the lyrics on the long journey back to Liverpool afterwards, gearing myself to have my world, if not knocked off its’ axis, then at least dented. That never happened. In fact, allow me:
And that’s all properly scientific and statistical and stuff.
I’ve played Setting Sons twice today and I really just can’t get into it. Every time I have played this LP I find myself just waiting for the comforting aggro of ‘The Eton Rifles’. Okay so there are some elements of it I do like:
- I rather like the recorder playing a jaunty little riff in ‘Wasteland’ instead of the guitar.
- The lyrics of ‘Burning Sky’ are great.
- I enjoy the Yardbirds-style rave-up cover of Martha & The Vandellas ‘Heat Wave’.
- I like the fact that ‘The Girl On The Phone’ knows the size of Paul Weller’s cock**.
- The opening of ‘Thick As Thieves’ is excellent.
It’s hard to put my finger on where it doesn’t click for me, I think, ‘Eton …’ aside, a lot of the tunes aren’t strong enough they fizzle out in a few cases. the production is quite brash and unsympathetic at times too. I loathe the cod-Kinksisms of ‘Smithers-Jones’, maybe patronising 9-5ers is a young man’s thing, but it sucks anyway; plus the Kinks were incredible, stop copying them, you can’t do it as well as they did. There’s also a certain brand of Englishness around this music that doesn’t sit well with me and not just because I’m Welsh, all that mod Union Jack shite has always riased my hackles. I know the Jam are using it to show a decline here, a slightly outdated, degraded sense of identity but even so … meurgggh!
I should point out in the interests of balance, fairness, Godliness and cleanliness that I have friends who worship at the altar this album, one of my very best friends’ favourite songs is ‘Thick As Thieves’. That’s the beauty of music isn’t it? we can all hold different opinions and have different tastes and it is all subjective, no-one is wrong; as long as they agree with me totally. To do otherwise is Thoughtcrime.
‘Eton Rifles’ is just brilliant. I had this on a great compilation called The Sound Of The Suburbs that my friends and I just used to blast all the time. It’s raucous, funny tale of class warfare is just streets ahead of anything else on Setting Sons. The bass sound and indeed the playing of Bruce Foxton on this track is worth the price of admission alone. Plus it is one of the very few songs I can think of that mentions rugby, which is possibly why I keep this album.
Thought you were smart when you took them on
But you didn’t take a peep in their artillery room
All that rugby puts hairs on your chest
What chance have you got against a tie and a crest?
So the moral of the story is I’m right, stick to the singles and goodnight!
*back in those long lost days before folk were trying to charge you £400 for crappy LPs in ropey condition in every second-hand shop.
**which he does not disclose here.
Girl on the phone keeps a-ringing back
Knows where I get my shirts and where I get my pants
Where I get my trousers where I get socks
My leg measurements and the size of my cock