And as the dulcet tones of The Jam’s ‘The Modern World’ fade slowly into the auspices of another mangled evening, the embers of each chord serve as a reminder of just how integral to modern living all this popular music shtick really is. Even not especially enticing popular music, such as the This Is The Modern World album by popular beat combo, The Jam.
It’s one of those elements that act as a constant, like background radiation, or national radio DJs using their Twitter accounts to beg for guest list admittance at forthcoming sold-out gigs. Back when we were all young and innocent, social media existed as a platform for posting photos of our ugly children, or for a hundred-thousand variations of the same, lame, news-related joke. These days however – now that we’re all modern, or post-modern, or simply post-post-modern – we exist as white noise. A blank canvas across which music journalists brag about how much appalling TV they watch, or guitarists of hip, post-rock conglomerates chummily acquiesce to guest list requests from those who really shouldn’t be doing so on a public forum – or at all, come to think of it.
Years ago, when attempting to blag a music-related freebie or seven, we’d prod our publicist toward the telephone, issuing the command for some sweet-talking to commence. Now, we simply whine online, like that time I filled the comments section of a music blog superior to this one by petulantly demanding a VIP pass for every single stop on the current Meatloaf tour.
As you’ll have surmised from the opening paragraph, I’m not a leading light in the Paul Weller fan club (you’ll also have spotted my pissy, misanthropic mood – still, well done for sticking with this so far). I wasn’t buying Jam records at time of release – probably because I was too young to understand the concept of monetary interaction – but even if I were of an age to have been throwing cash at vinyl between 1977 and ’82, I don’t think I would have been convinced by Woking’s finest. For whilst time and context warp perception, The Jam’s sound has always hit these ears accompanied by the suggestion of a cheesy, suburban angst. A snarling, outsider observation proclaimed on oak-lined avenues, subdued illumination leaking from the window-panes of ’30’s-built semis almost benevolently.
And hurriedly passing by the Style Council era, Weller’s long solo career feels equally as safe; a paradigm of vaguely mod-related trope that fails to engage on any level beyond all that self-serving music press waffle that identifies longevity as a principal virtue. I would argue that he’s a far superior lyricist than often given credit for… yet this brief and highly glib statement of underwhelm is only a taster of a far more extensive critique that would only arrive at a similar conclusion – if I could be bothered to write it (although I will offer the usual caveat by welcoming any riposte; will happily publish 1,000 or so words on why I’m wrong – there’s an email address at the bottom of this page).
Meanwhile, there is one track by The Jam that is known to spark interest around these parts. Something almost smuggled out – the b-side to 1979 single ‘Strange Town’ – that hints at an otherwise hidden darkness:
There’s tarts and whores but you’re much more
You’re a different kind cause you want their minds
And you just don’t care cause you’ve got no pride
Its just a face on your pillowcase that thrills you
The Jam / The Butterfly Collector