SOUND AFFECTS by by Dave McCullough ©Sounds - November 1980
They should have been shot down years ago! That they weren´t is almost entirely due to the fact that Paul Weller talks to ordinary people in an extraordinary voice but minus the usual deceit or malice. Weller´s humanism is as simple and direct as it is unaffected. He cares. In SOUND AFFECTS they have made their best album yet. The barbs themselves aren´t important, but what is, is the feel of challenge and commitment. As a result SOUND AFFECTS is a truly stirring record. It brings the necessary orthodox of The Jam to a peak. The balance is magnificent, classical in design. A celebration of a liberating force in rock and roll (sound does affect!). Side Two, for instance, opens viciously, problemically with typical English storyettes in taut fast music in the shape of ´Dream Time´ and ´Man In The Corner Shop´. The second side is completed by the sheer classic 45 pop of ´Boy About Town´ Dexys horns and all. It is heart music.
From probably the last great English singles band, the most outspoken and rounded Jam LP yet.
SOUND AFFECTS Paul Du Noyer ©New Musical Express - November 1980
Not another Jam album? Well, not actually. There´s never been just another Jam album. This album takes the band forward. SOUND AFFECTS isn´t a perfect Jam album, even if it is a great one. It´s a brave departure and an earnest effort to break new ground. That dense heavy sound which found its climax in ´Going Underground´ has been cut back, stripped down to only its most basic parts. Instrumentation is stark, spare and hard, ´Monday´ is a beautiful love song that climbs up to classic status,These influences are only incorporated to enrich what´s really there, and remain firmly subservient to Weller´s own songwriting gifts. ´That´s Entertainment´ must rate as one of Paul Weller´s finest pieces to date. He´s observing with more vivid descriptive ability than at any time previously. As always the view point is a humane, personalistic one, Where SOUND AFFECTS is good it´s great, and where it´s not so good it´s still good.
I´ve got SOUND AFFECTS and I´m chuffed with it and all I want now is another Jam album.
SOUND AFFECTS by Patrick Humphries ©Melody Maker - November 1980
The complexities start when I try to analyse why I am not overwhelmed by this album. What I hear is a Jam album I respect, but don´t necessarily like. I do not doubt Weller´s sincerety, he has proved his ability at articulating the frustrations which form the sad foundation for this society. It is for them that Paul Weller speaks, it is why the song ´That´s Entertainment´ is one of Weller´s finest ever efforts. Weller still has to prove that he has mastered those influences. Weller is still only 22 and this is the fifth album he has created. It´s flawed but even in those flaws lie the seeds for the future, fascinating developments. Weller has set himself impressively high standards and
SOUND AFFECTS does not fully realise his capabilities, Whilst I admire this album I do not like it. Not yet.
SOUND AFFECTS by Don Snowden, New York Rocker, March 1981
SOUND AFFECTS finds the Jam stretching out, once again successfully staying off the (seemingly) inherent limitations of a three-piece lineup.
Their fifth record is every bit as far removed from the densely textured Setting Sons as that last one was from the clean precision of All Mod Cons. And Cons signalled the maturation of the Jam from the adrenalin rush of their first two albums.
This new sound is stark, lean and very live, with Paul Weller's guitar and vocals mixed a bit behind Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler. People keep harping on Sound Affects' debt to '67 and the Beatles, but what I hear – in general, and specifically in some of Weller's licks – is increased emphasis on the R&B influence that's been integral to all of the Jam's work.
The arrangements (especially the vocals) are more sophisticated, Weller sings his ass off, and the lyrics by and large retain his trademarked anger and flair for perceptive desription. But the impressive aspects of the performance – and I like this particular Jam sound a lot – pale in light of one crucial question that goes unanswered: where the hell are the hooks?
Side two is almost a complete washout, except for 'Music for the Last Couple', and even then only because the idea of the Jam going ska cum Gang of Four-style dub is so off-the-wall. The first side is more substantial but still hardly up to normal Jam standards. 'Pretty Green' is a solid, if unexceptional, look at the modern world's "money talks, nobody walks" underpinnings and 'Monday' is a quietly forceful love song with one of the few hooks that stick. 'But I'm Different Now' boasts crackling Weller guitar, 'Start' a snazzy horn lick, but not much else.
The one gem is 'That's Entertainment', a beautiful collection of capsule images acompanied only by acoustic guitar, bass, and miscellaneous percussion. I can't precisely say what Weller's getting at here – maybe an admonition that you can find entertainment anywhere without passively relying on media-packaged versions – but it hardly matters.
With its martial drumming, powerful riff and Clampdown theme, 'Set the House Ablaze' could have easily fit on Setting Sons and here ranks as the greatest missed opportunity. The arrangement is unfocused, with Weller's final spoken verse of indoctrination, presumably the crux of the whole song, tossed off in an indecipherable mumble that makes you wonder why he bothered.
Even if you view music as art with a capital "A" or as a vehicle for personal expression, communication must be a significant part of the game. One needn't resort to overt preaching or tried-and-true song structures to get the point across, thought it's that or any other element of accessibility that's lacking in Sound Affects.
I can tell you that 'Set the House Ablaze' goes beyond accusatory finger-pointing into whys and wherefores on a deeply personal level and that 'Dream Time' concludes with some chilling imagery of packaged emotions for sale in a supermarket. The trouble is that I found that out from the lyric sheet, not from the grooves.
I still believe that Paul Weller is one of the best songwriters we've got, and that as the Jam continue to grow they will make great albums. I don't believe Sound Affects is destined to be one of them.