Thursday, 31 May 2018

The Jam - Sound Affects (1980)

Paint splattered walls and the cry of a tomcat....


Released on 28 November 1980

Recorded at The Townhouse Studio, London

Running time 35:18

Sound Affects was released in late 1980, with The Jam now at the height of their powers. Going Underground went straight to number one the previous March. In summer the lead-off single from this album, the Taxman-influenced Start! did likewise. The band were untouchable now, masters of ex-punk chart pop.


1. Pretty Green

2. Monday
3. But I'm Different Now
4. Set The House Ablaze
5. Start!
6. That's Entertainment
7. Dream Time
8. Man In The Corner Shop
9. Music For The Last Couple
10. Boy About Town
11. Scrape Away

Paul Weller, much in admiration of The BeatlesRevolver, seemed to want to produce a similar album - sparse, tinny, guitar-driven with some cutting lyrics scattered around for good measure. I have to admit that it is a bit of a difficult album to categorise - the old sixties influences are very much to the fore - the afore-mentioned Beatles, The Small Faces, sixties psychedelic pop. It is not an album that builds on the Jam sound crafted on All Mod Cons and Setting Sons, though, it strips things down. The sound is more minimalist, trebly and succinct and, by the old "side two" there is a bit of a lack of cohesion. This is where it gets a bit patchy. 

So, back in late 1980, this album was received like the second coming. My memories of my first few listens at the time are those of a slightly underwhelming nature, and an unwillingness to face up to the fact that I preferred the previous two offerings. I clung on to that guitar break in Pretty Green, the hooky appeal of Man In The Corner Shop and the magnificent atmosphere of That's Entertainment as great moments to help me overlook other more ordinary songs like the short But I'm Different Now, the vague Dream Time and the throwaway instrumental, Music For The Last Couple. Anyway, here are those pocketfuls of pretty green....

Pretty Green kicked things off as we all hurriedly put this on our turntables to hear Bruce Foxton’s rumbling bass let us know our favourite lads' band were back.Monday saw Weller going all romantic, with his accent to the fore - “rainclouds came to cloud my funder”, then it is on to the breakneck, punky But I'm Different Now with its typically Jam “aye-aye-aye” chorus.

Next up is the anti-fascist put-down Set The House Ablaze. More “la la las”. Those choruses can sometimes sound a bit "naff" but at other times they seem to fit perfectly. Nobody else used them as much as The Jam did. The song has a mysterious, dense, almost claustrophobic feel to it, though, similar to the following year's non-album single, Funeral Pyre

Start! was an odd, short song for a single, but it has a quirky, staccato appeal. Just check out Bruce Foxton's huge bass sound on it too. The very essence of The Jam. The interplay between him and drummer Rick Buckler was integral to their sound..

Thats Entertainment is a pure Jam classic. Written by a semi-drunken Weller late one night in fifteen minutes, sung against a stark acoustic guitar backing, it is a slice of late 70s urban British life in three minutes. Magnificent stuff. 

Dream Time is a touch of sixties psychedelia and Man In The Corner Shop  another singalong semi-tragic Jam social conscience anthem.

The instrumental Music For The Last Couple is a bit of a waste, considering some of the great tracks left off the album but it all ends strongly with the Small Faces-ish Boy About Town and the dense, introspective Scrape Away, which has become one of my favourites from the album in later years. Initially, however, it didn't do much for me. Ones tastes change over the years. The same applies to Set The House Ablaze.

Now, on to the remastering. I have to say it is dreadfully tinny and does the album something of an injustice. The 1997 remasters and the one used on the Direction Reaction Creation box set are both much better. What is bizarre, however, is that the extra tracks on disc two are remastered to a much higher standard, warmer and bassier. 

Also present on disc two are the quality extras in Liza Radley, the plaintive All Mod Cons-ish No-One In The World, Dreams Of Children and the Beatles cover And Your Bird Can Sing. Any of those could, and possibly should have made it on to the album.

Still worthy of owning, but the remastering could have been better. I am currently playing it on a better system than I have in the past and it sounds a bit better, so all is not lost.

For many, this is considered to be The Jam's best album, rather as many prefer The Beatles' Revolver to Sgt. Pepper. I can sort of see why, but the tinny sound and some patchy parts on the album's second side will always place it below both All Mod Cons and Setting Sons for me.


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