ALL MOD CONS by Gary Bushell ©Sounds - October 1978
Must have been the pressure and frustration that drove Weller into creating ALL MOD CONS. They just blast away 12 years of blind-alley ´progression´ and take up the mantle of Townshend/Lennon-McCartney for the modern world. Weller translates his thematic concerns into his finest lyrics to date. To describe the album in more than 400 words is a nonsense.
ALL MOD CONS by Philip Hall ©Record Mirror - October 1978
Forget the crash, bang, wallop revivalist style of their early days; The Jam have come of age.They are not imitators but upholders of a great British tradition. This is Sixties music handled in an original and modern way which has given The Jam their distinctive and now truly distinguished style. No clever final comments, just that this one of the best three albums of ´78.
ALL MOD CONS by Charles Shaar Murray ©New Musical Express - October 1978
It´s not only several light years ahead of anything they´ve ever done before but also the album that is going to catapult The Jam right into the front rank of international rock and roll, one of the handful of truly essential rock albums of the last few years. Weller has transcended his original naivety without becoming cynical about anything other than the music business. ALL MOD CONS is an album based firmly in 1978 and looking forward. Weller has the almost unique ability to write love songs that convince the listener that the singer is really in love. Weller is, like Bruce Springsteen, tough enough to break down his own defences, secure enough to make himself vulnerable. This is a good a place as any to point out that bassist Bruce Foxton and drummer Rick Buckler are more than equal to the new demands that Weller is making on them: the vitality, empathy and resourcefulness they display throughout the album makes ALL MOD CONS a collective triumph for The Jam as well as a personal triumph for Weller. If these songs mean that one less meaningless street fight gets started then we´ll all owe Paul Weller a favour. It´ll be the album that makes The Jam real contenders for the crown.
Look out all you rock and rollers, as now of The Jam are the ones to beat.
ALL MOD CONS by Frances Lass ©Melody Maker - October 1978
Starving the market of vinyl product is not a game which you can accuse The Jam of playing. Perhaps if Paul Weller were to be a little less enthusiastic, a little less concerned with churning out singles like a bottle factory, The Jam would not be in danger of becoming tiresome. Not that Weller can´t still pull a gem or two. Weller has got himself into an essentially sterile trap. If it wasn´t for the fact that Weller is so obviously sincere it would be an insult (´English Rose´). Basically, nothing has changed musically except Weller has moved on a year or two. By this rate, taking into account the hyperactive output, he should have caught up with the rest of us in the year 1990. Can you wait?
ALL MOD CONS by Robert Christgau - Dean Of American Rock Critsics
Far from the posers cynics believe them to be, these guys are almost painfully sincere, and on this album their desire to write commercial songs that say something is palpable and winning. Unfortunately, their success is mixed at best, and the music is so tentative that I was surprised by how hard they made a set of new material rock in concert. But last year's set rocked even harder. And though I can overlook the record's gaffes and forced lines and faint playing in the aftermath of the show, I'm too much of a cynic to believe the glow will last. B
ALL MOD CONS by Dave Marsh, Rolling Stone, 17 May 1979
FOR TWO albums, the Jam made leader Paul Weller's obsession with Pete Townshend and the early Who stand up as an acceptable substitute for personal vision. With All Mod Cons, Weller makes his move. The trouble is he can't decide between branching out into Ray Davies and the Kinks' bogus nostalgia for things never known or becoming an illiterate version of Bryan Ferry. The result is a record that's nearly catastrophic, weak at the surface and almost rotten underneath.
Weller retains his passion for detail. It shows up graphically in the Rickenbacker guitar (like Townshend's) that dominates the back cover and in the scooter diagram that holds half the inner sleeve. And it's certainly there in the LP's finest song, 'In the Crowd' (a nightmarish rewrite of the Who's 'The Kids Are Alright'), in which a gang becomes less a sanctuary than a trap. 'In the Crowd' ends with a blast of feedback that's not only the least disaffected but, oddly, the cleanest recorded moment on the album.
Overall, the sound is muddy and distanced, as if it'd been miked from the wrong end of a long hallway; maybe what the Jam is missing is a producer as good as Glyn Johns. But Weller has also gone in for some of the most pretentious writing I've heard on a rock & roll record in years. 'English Rose' is a half-witted schoolboy's rewrite of Sir Walter Scott, while 'Fly' has all the disenchantment and none of the erudition of Bryan Ferry.
Paul Weller is at his best when he's indulging in fantasies. 'Mr. Clean' is the Kinks' 'A Well Respected Man' turned mad-dog vicious. It fails because straight suburbanites are safe targets. (The forebodings Weller has about his peers in 'In the Crowd' are a lot more interesting.) Similarly, 'Down in a Tube Station at Midnight' would work better if its hero had been stomped by his own kind rather than by right-wing creeps. The quintessential paranoia, though, is 'A Bomb in Wardour Street', which is as much a miniature rewrite of Pete Townshend's 'Won't Get Fooled Again' as it is anything.
There's some nice playing on All Mod Cons (most of it by bassist Bruce Foxton), but somewhere the Jam has lost its punch. In 'Billy Hunt', a song about a discontented laborer, Weller says: "No one pushes Billy Hunt around/Well they do but not for long." This notion about the inconsequential — that every gesture's only a gesture — probably speaks very directly to the gamesmanship of current rock. But what's rock & roll worth without a sense of triumph, and the feeling that every gesture is also a blow for identity?
ALL MOD CONS (In Depth) by Charles Shaar Murray ©New Musical Express - October 1978
THIRD ALBUMS generally mean that it's shut-up-or-get-cut-up time: when an act's original momentum has drained away and they've got to cover the distance from a standing start, when you've got to cross "naive charm" off your list of assets.
For The Jam, it seemed as if the Third Album Syndrome hit with their second album. This Is The Modern World was dull and confused, lacking both the raging, one-dimensional attack of their first album and any kind of newly-won maturity. A couple of vaguely duff singles followed and, in the wake of a general disillusionment with the Brave New Wave World, it seemed as if Paul Weller and his team were about to be swept under the carpet.
Well, it just goes to show you never can tell. All Mod Cons is the third Jam album to be released (it's actually the fourth Jam album to be recorded; the actual third Jam album was judged, found wanting and scrapped) and it's not only several light years ahead of anything they've done before but also the album that's going to catapult The Jam right into the front rank of international rock and roll; one of the handful of truly essential rock albums of the last few years.
The title is more than Grade B punning or a clever-clever linkup with the nostalgibuzz packaging (like the target design on the label, the Swinging London trinketry, the Lambretta diagram or the Immediate-style lettering); it's a direct reference to both the broadening of musical idiom and Weller's reaffirmation of a specific Mod consciousness.
Remember the Mod ideal: it was a lower-middle and working-class consciousness that stressed independence, fun and fashion without loss of integrity or descent into elitism or consumerism; unselfconscious solidarity and a dollop of non-sectarian concern for others. Weller has transcended his original naivety without becoming cynical about anything other than the music business.
Mod became hippies and we know that didn't work; the more exploratory end of Mod rock became psychedelia. Just as Weller's Mod ideal has abandoned the modern equivalent of beach-fighting and competitive posing, his Mod musical values have moved from '65 to '66: the intoxicating period between pilled-up guitar-strangling and Sergeant Pepper. Reference points: Rubber Soul and A Quick One rather than Small Faces and My Generation.
Still, though Weller's blends of acoustic and electric 6 and 12-string guitars, sound effects, overdubs and more careful structuring and arranging of songs (not to mention a quantum leap in standard of composition) may cause frissons of delight over at the likes of Bomp, Trouser Press and other covens of ageing Yankee Anglophiles, All Mod Cons is an album based firmly in 1978 and looking forward.
This is the modern world: 'Down In The Tube Station At Midnight' is a fair indication of what Weller's up to on this album, as was 'A-Bomb In Wardour Street' (I can't help thinking that he's given more hard clear-eyed consideration to the implications of the Sham Army than Jimmy Pursey has), but they don't remotely tell the whole story. For one thing, Weller has the almost unique ability to write love songs that convince the listener that the singer is really in love. Whether he's describing an affair that's going well or badly, he writes with a penetrating, committed insight that rings perfectly, utterly true.
Weller writes lovingly and (choke on it) sensitively without ever descending to the patented sentimentality that is the stock-in-trade of the emotionally bankrupt. That sentimentality is but the reverse side of the macho coin, and both sides spell lovelessness. The inclusion of 'English Rose' (a one-man pick'n'croon acoustic number backed only by a tape of the sea) is both a musical and emotional finger in the eye for everyone who still clings to the old punk tough-guy stereotype and is prepared to call The Jam out for not doing likewise.
Weller is – like Bruce Springsteen – tough enough not to feel he needs to prove it any more, strong enough to break down his own defences, secure enough to make himself vulnerable. The consciousness of All Mod Cons is the most admirable in all of British rock and roll, and one that most of his one-time peers could do well to study.
Through the album, then: the brief, brusque title track and its immediate successor ('To Be Someone') examine the rock business first in a tart V-sign to some entrepreneurial type who wishes to squeeze the singer dry and then throw him away, and second in a cuttingly ironic track about a superstar who lost touch with the kids and blew his career. Weller is, by implication, assuring his listeners that no way is that going to happen to him: but the song is so well though out and so convincing that it chokes back the instinctive "Oh yeah?" that a less honest song in the same vein would elicit from a less honest band.
From there we're into 'Mr Clean', an attack on the complacent middle-aged "professional classes." The extreme violence of its language (the nearest this album comes to an orthodox punk stance, in fact) is matched with music that combines delicacy and aggression with an astonishing command of dynamics. This is as good a place as any to point out that bassist Bruce Foxton and drummer Rick Buckler are more than equal to the new demands that Weller is making on them: the vitality, empathy and resourcefulness that they display throughout the album makes All Mod Cons a collective triumph for The Jam as well as a personal triumph for Weller.
'David Watts' follows (written by Ray Davies, sung by Foxton and a re-recorded improvement on the 45) with 'English Rose' in hot pursuit. The side ends with 'In The Crowd', which places Weller dazed and confused in the supermarket. It bears a superficial thematic resemblance to 'The Combine' (from the previous album) in that it places its protagonist in a crowd and examines his reactions to the situation, but its musical and lyrical sophistication smashes 'The Combine' straight back to the stone age. It ends with a lengthy, hallucinatory backward guitar solo which sounds as fresh and new as anything George Harrison or Pete Townshend did a dozen years ago, and a reference back to 'Away From The Numbers'.
'Billy Hunt', whom we meet at the beginning of the second side, is not a visible envy-focus like Davies' 'David Watts', but the protagonist's faintly ludicrous all-powerful fantasy self: what he projects in the day dreams that see him through his crappy job. The deliberate naivety of this fantasy is caught and projected by Weller with a skill that is nothing short of marvellous.
A brace of love songs follow: 'It's Too Bad' is a song of regret for a couple's mutual inability to save a relationship which they both know is infinitely worth saving. Musically, it's deliriously, wonderfully '66 Beat Groupish in a way that represents exactly what all those tinpot powerpop bands were aiming for but couldn't manage. Lyrically, even if this sort of song was Weller's only lick, he'd still be giving Pete Shelley and all his New Romance fandangos a real run for his money.
'Fly' is an exquisite electric/acoustic construction, a real lovers' song, but from there on in the mood changes for the "Doctor Marten's Apocalypse" of 'A-Bomb In Wardour Street' and 'Tube Station'. In both these songs, Weller depicts himself as the victim who doesn't know why he's getting trashed at the hands of people who don't know why they feel they have to hand out the aggro.
We've heard a lot of stupid, destructive songs about the alleged joys of violence lately and they all stink: if these songs are listened to in the spirit in which they were written then maybe we'll see a few less pictures of kids getting carried off the terraces with darts in their skulls. And if these songs mean that one less meaningless street fight gets started then we'll all owe Paul Weller a favour.
The Jam brought us The Sound Of '65 in 1976, and now in 1978 they bring us the sound of '66. Again, they've done it such a way that even though you can still hear The Who here and there and a few distinct Beatleisms in those ornate decending 12-string chord sequences, it all sounds fresher and newer than anything else this year. All Mod Cons is the album that'll make Bob Harris' ears bleed the next time he asks what has Britain produced lately; more important, it'll be the album that makes The Jam real contenders for the crown.
Look out, all you rock and rollers: as of now The Jam are the ones you have to beat.
ALL MOD CONS by Dave Schulps, Trouser Press, February 1979
IT HAS TAKEN the Jam merely three albums to go from a young band with a lot of energy and a love for mod-era rock'n'roll to a band ready to take their place next to the Who, Kinks and the precious few others who have been able to capture the essence of being an individual caught up in a certain place and time.
On All Mod Cons Paul Weller has come of age – as a songwriter, as a lyricist, as a guitarist. He has chosen his heroes well, borrowed what he needed from them in order to create his own style, and on this album shows not only that he has the talent to be taken seriously in his own right, but that he possesses the essential ingredient that can't be borrowed, copied, or learned – heart. This heart is stamped all over All Mod Cons and, simply, is what it's all about.
Weller has become the sharp-eyed, never-quite-comfortable observer, not really venomous, but quietly seething with the little pains of existence, trying to understand life and cope with it as best he can. It is a role Townshend and Davies played at various times throughout the careers of the Who and Kinks, but Weller sees the here and now without trying (as he seemed to do on the Jam's first two records) to recapture their forever-gone past. "I'm making a stand against the world," he offers in 'The Place I Love'. "There are those who would hurt us if they heard, and that's always in the back of my mind." All of Weller's characters reflect this same vulnerability, although it's actually the album's only non-original, Ray Davies' dull and simple lad, 'David Watts' (sung, interestingly enough, by bassist Bruce Foxton), which seems to sum up Weller's own characters best.
There are so many exquisite, lyrical moments on All Mod Cons that it's impossible to catalogue them all. There are the beautiful vocal harmonies on 'All Mod Cons', 'To Be Someone', 'In the Crowd', 'It's Too Bad'. There is the sterling guitar work: big Whoish chords, then feeding back, then soaring, then sounding like the guitar is being taken apart piece by piece on 'In the Crowd'. There is the gently lilting acoustic on 'English Rose' and 'Fly', the slashing power chords on 'The Place I Love', the eloquent changing of mood on 'Fly'. There is Paul Weller's voice, still gruff, but by now so expressive within its limitations that like Townshend and Davies he turns it into a plus. Suffice to say that All Mod Cons firmly establishes Paul Weller (and the Jam) as a major talent (and band) for the '80s. Wake up, radio, you missed the Kinks in their prime, don't blow it again.