The JAM – ” Sound Affects ” Released 28th November 1980

Posted: November 29, 2020 in CLASSIC ALBUMS, MUSIC
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The Jam – “Sound Affects” is the fifth studio album by the Jam, released on this day (28th November) in 1980.  It is the only Jam album to be co-produced by the band themselves, and contains the only album track co-written by the entire band, “Music for the Last Couple”. Unhappy with the slicker approach of Setting Sons, the Jam got back to basics, using the direct, economic playing of All Mod Cons and “Going Underground,” the simply brilliant single which preceded Sound Affects by a few months.

“Sound Affects” is The Jam’s magnum opus. From beginning to end, it is their most consistent and inventive album, filled as it is with compelling, mesmerizing songs. Here the Jam develop into a legitimate post-punk outfit, taking cues from contemporaries, Mixed with this fresh sounding development of their sound is the Jam’s already familiar love for 60’s music. The emphasis here is more often than not found in the psychedelic aspects of the album. Songs like “That’s Entertainment” and “Monday” paint brilliantly vivid pictures of everyday working class life through a psychedelic lens. 

Thematically, though, Paul Weller explored a more indirect path, leaving behind (for the most part) the story-song narratives in favour of more abstract dealings in spirituality and perception — the approach stemming from his recent readings of Blake and Shelley (who was quoted on the sleeve), but more specifically Geoffrey Ash, whose Camelot and the Vision of Albion made a strong impression. Musically, Weller drew upon Revolver-era Beatles as a primary source (the bassline on “Start,” which comes directly from “Taxman,” being the most obvious occurrence), incorporating the occasional odd sound and echoed vocal, which implied psychedelia without succumbing to its excesses. From beginning to end, the songs are pure, clever, infectious pop — probably their catchiest — with “That’s Entertainment” and the should-have-been-a-single “Man in the Corner Shop” standing out.

On the more post-punk side of things, there is “Music for the Last Couple” and “Scrape Away,” where brilliantly unconventional production, jagged guitar licks and existential lyrics collide to awesome effect.

The lyrics are up to the standard one would expect from Weller, which is to say they are completely brilliant. The ability of Weller as a young man to dissect the true nature of the world was always astounding, arguably on this album more than ever before. There is the usually scathing social commentary combined with a thoroughly existential, philosophical tone. “Sound Affects” is one of the greatest albums of all time, and arguably the best album The Jam ever made.

THE JAM’s“Sound Affects.”

It features the single “Start!,” plus new tracks, “Pretty Green,” “Monday,” “But I’m Different Now,” “Set The House Ablaze,” “That’s Entertainment,” “Dream Time,” “Man In The Corner Shop,” “Music For The Last Couple,” “Boy About Town,” and “Scrape Away.”

The cover of the album is meant to be a parody of the ’60s BBC Sound Effects LPs. As expected, it’s a huge hit the UK, going up to #2 on the album charts. In America, where the band has never found a foothold, it becomes their first charted record, but stalls at #72. In the NME Paul Du Noyer writes that, “…it’s a brave departure and an earnest effort to break new ground. ‘Sound Affects’ is the Jam today and that’s what we need most of all. The new songs represent a band that’s as vital and as capable of anger as ever; but more than ever be.
The Jam’s attacking spirit is being allied to melodic invention, and to lyrics that are increasingly thoughtful. Ignore any suggestions that they’re going soft of ’67.”

In Sounds Dave McCullough writes that this is, “…their best album yet…a truly stirring record. It has a depth that appears impenetrable. My head is still going round with the possibilities.”

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