I always preferred The Style Council.
There I’ve said it.
I really did – the Council were part of a movement I now realise thanks to Wikipedia was called Sophisti-Pop, not that I had mercifully ever used that term in my life. You will find it covers everything from Spandau Ballet to Animal Nightlife via Sade and the Blow Monkeys – all of which will pop up on here some time soon, I would imagine.
I just didn’t really like The Jam or more accurately, the kids at school who really liked the Jam. They were always the pale ones who carried penknives and liked cross-country running. They would all become angry so quickly – not unlike their idol, Mr Weller when he was a callow 14 year old, I imagine. They all used to positively froth with excitement when ordering winkle-picker shoes and Lonsdale T-shirts by mail-order from Melanddi on Carnaby Street.
And oh how upset they all were when The Jam split up at the height of their popularity and Paul Weller started up the far more poppy and jazzy Council. I think I just liked the Style Council more, simply because it so aggravated The Jam fans.
I can feel them silently fuming even now as they read this.
I want to talk about The Jam’s fifth album, “Sound Affects” so put your Swiss Army away. This was after all Paul Weller’s favourite Jam album.
Let’s start with the opener and what an opener. “Pretty Green” has an astonishing one note bass riff which kick out of the speakers like thunder and then accompany what is almost a nursery rhyme like lyric about the fecklessness of being young, with stinging guitar slashes. Don’t forget Liam Gallagher named his clothing line after this belter.
And then comes the first of what feel like very Kinks like influences with the beautiful almost elegiac “Monday” which when stacked up with the very mod-ish “Boy About Town” carries the influences of the Brothers Davies not just in the content but also in the beautiful harmonies, which avoids the usual shouty Jam backing.
The Beatles “Revolver” is often held as major influence from the 60s too and of course, the lift of the riffs from “Taxman” on number one hit “Start!”. Interestingly, an informal market research group amongst the band’s friends chose this to be the single against record company advice. It also has wonderful harmonies mimicking its influence but somehow still avoiding pastiche.
But these are not the only influences for this was the height of post-punk New Wave and “Set The House Ablaze” with its unconcealed anger has the hallmarks of equally powerful contemporaries, The Clash – think “English Civil War”.
This was a truly dissatisfied generation.
And it’s further reflected by the ramshackle skirmish with ska on “Music For The Last Couple” – although The Specials they conclusively are not – conjuring up the styling that was very much the turn of the decade sound of choice, apart from…
Weller regularly talked about listening hard to Michael Jackson’s “OffThe Wall” during the making of this album and whilst that might sound surprising, there is a remarkably relentless rhythm through this entire album, largely driven by the rarely praised Bruce Foxton, whose playing is tremendous throughout – exhibit A – “Dreamtime”.
Then there’s the one of the best selling import singles of all time in the UK and certainly one of the finest songs Weller ever wrote – and still performs – “That’s Entertainment” an acoustic ballad with unexpected pace. It is a rip-roaring panorama of the grimness of living in Britain in the early 80s – I was always glad I didn’t live next door to him – but it has such an unexpected combination of instrumentation that even as a studious avoider of the band, I had always admired this song.
Despite being very much a product of its time, it is still truly exciting piece of vinyl. And he knocked it off in about fifteen minutes. What an inspirational elysium, Woking must be.
So all in all, regardless of its obvious multitude of visible influences, this album has an originality all of its own – like Oasis’s “What’s The Story Morning Glory”. It feels surprisingly comfortable in its own skin even now and its production helps its listenability (and I never found The Jam always that listenable) together with Foxton and Buckler’s locked-in backing.
I freely admit it – this is an enjoyable album. But if you think I’m putting on some trainers and going cross country running with these knees, you can think again.