The Jam - All Mod Cons (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Jam

All Mod Cons (1978)


All Mod Cons is the kind of great punk (hell, rock n' roll) album made by guys who have developed enough as players and as songwriters to make something confident and powerful. At the same time, they've been approached by enough slimy A+R men (while simultaneously shit on as not punk enough) to write something as self-aware as the title song or "To Be Someone," "And the bread I spend is like my fame, it's quickly distinguished." All Mod Cons is Weller, Foxton, and Buckler at a tipping point, having grown massively as players and moving beyond any grumbling about their poseur status just by writing catchy, compelling songs over and over.

Not that they've grown totally beyond their influences clearly: "Mr. Clean" is a snarling, resentful Ray-Davies style character study of a middle class asshole, while "David Watts" is a straight ahead Kinks cover. But like many pop bands before and after them, The Jam were blatant about their obsession with British pop-rock and most importantly Messieurs Townshend and Davies. Yet Weller is a little more tender and romantic than either of them, the punk in him able to drop artistic ambition and artifice in favor of pure emotion ("English Rose" is more pretty than powerful, but it's still a major step for Weller as writer). And man, does the playing here sound fantastic- all three musicians are locked into each other, the breakdowns and codas on "In The Crowd" and "Down In The Tube Station At Midnight" fierce and clearly the result of years of playing together soaked in sweat.

The Jam were critiqued for their Mod fashions and being old-fashioned in their influences, but that made their work endure far better than most of the punk bands from 1978. Instead of sounding like a weird throwback to the 60s, they come across as a simply a great rock band with great songs, and All Mod Cons cements that. Weller's best work would arguably emerge in the next few albums, but the liberating, soaring guitar solo on "Fly" alone speaks volumes as to what the band was capable of and how good their music is more than thirty years later.