Judging from the sheer amount of �la�s and �ooh�s present throughout �Sound Affects�, it is often perceived as more of a �pop� album than its four predecessors. True, Weller�s incisive buzzsaw guitar is often relegated to the background in favour of Bruce Foxton�s melodic and hummable basslines. Much of the album is instantly accessible and as such many of the songs have single potential (in fact, the release of the quirky �Start!� as the lead-off single instead of the record companies preferred �Pretty Green� is a commendable non-conformist move by the band. The album is very polished sounding as well. However, for all its accessibility, the tracklist often dips into more experimental territory, and also explores an almost-psychedelic sonic template in places, augmented with layered instruments. This is almost certainly due to the record mostly being created in the studio � Weller had turned up with only a few ideas for lyrics and chord sequences. The in situ creation of �Sound Affects� resulted in an inconsistent record with different moods and atmospheres unique to each track, giving a slightly incohesive feel. This didn�t stop the album selling 100,000 plus copies and only being kept off the number one spot by ABBA�s �Super Trouper� album. End of year polls in 1980 placed the band at the forefront of the British music scene. And despite all this, �Sound Affects� proved to be their penultimate album; it was the beginning of the end for The Jam.
�Sound Affects� was released in November 1980, following the lead-off No.1 �Start!�, and was the follow-up to the success of 1979 album �Setting Sons� and the famous single that followed that album � �Going Underground�. �Sound Affects� bore a lot less of a punk or mod influence than the albums that went before it, and was the first Jam album to not contain a cover version on it. Instead, the overriding mood of the album was a large sonic template full of sound effects and double-tracked instruments. �Sound Affects� is an extremely interesting record � it doesn�t sound like previous records in most ways, and in many ways some of the instrumentation is odd-sounding and abrasive, yet somehow virtually all the songs are catchy and contain some sort of hook. This may well be down to the choruses on the album � virtually every song has a fantastic memorable sing-a-long chorus. It is therefore difficult to look at the album as inconsistent � virtually every track is memorable � even semi-instrumental �Music For The Last Couple� is memorable, though this time through it�s funky guitar and bass riffs. In fact, the more you consider the album, the better it is, yet the more confused you are as to why. Obviously there are the fan-favourites forming the backbone. Pretty Green� is a thundering opener with a strong one-note bassline and catchy verse lyrics (�I�ve got a pocket full of, pre-tty green�). The stop-start dynamics of the song immediately catch the attention, despite the song being quite weak when taken out of album context, as demonstrated by the �Beat Surrender� compilation. Then rather obviously people will stop off at track six � one of The Jam�s best known songs, �That�s Entertainment�, a brilliant song that is entirely out of place stuck in the middle of �Sound Affects�. In case you haven�t heard it, the song is probably Weller�s best encapsulation of British life. It is based almost entirely on acoustic guitar and Weller�s voice (which is mixed quite low), and the lyrics pretty much form a list of what happens in life and the fact that Weller finds life in all its forms entertaining. So simple when put like that, but so affecting when put on record. �Man In The Corner Shop� is another great song that people will know, as Weller still plays that song live today. �Man In The Corner Shop� vein) starts in the same way that songs like �The Eton Rifles� and �Mr. Clean� start, with the chorus� melody played on guitar, so when it comes in you all ready know the tune to sing along. It�s a neat trick and works extremely well, especially in this case, the echoing nostalgic �la la la la la� refrain bringing a wistful smile to your face.
The record also triumphs with many of it�s album tracks for the reason I mentioned earlier � virtually all the songs contain a brilliant chorus. Throughout the tracks there is experimentation in intros and verses. Riffs are played in a way that sounds backwards, there is the odd funk bassline dotted around, vocal follow odd patterns, there are large psychedelic-sounding verses, but all the tracks (with maybe the exception of ender �Scrape Away�, though it does feature a great outro in a chorus-vein) pull together for choruses with memorable vocal lines. The �album� tracks are less straight to the line, many sound like they were recorded in a dreamlike state, especially the droning �Monday� and the aptly-titled �Dream Time�. Elsewhere there is the thick stereo rumble of �Set The House Ablaze� and the abrasive �But I�m Different Now�, which is the only song from �Sound Affects� that sounds like it could belong on one of their previous albums. The two tracks before the closing song �Scrape Away� are my two favourite tracks on the album, though I also give mentions to �That�s Entertainment� and �Man In The Corner Shop� on that front. �Music For The Last Couple� � one of drummer Rick Buckler�s few writing credits - is a funky semi-instrumental with memorable riffs on the guitar and bass that complement each other and work around each other extremely well, and has a single line of vocals serving as a chorus point. It is an odd, almost non-song, which is memorable long afterwards. �Boy About Town� on the other hand, is a chirpy, upbeat trumpet-enhanced tune that harks back to the band�s mod roots. The song is one of the few on the album that is not the result of experimentation, and is quite a straightforward song based around a few chords and a good vocal line.
�Sound Affects� is an important Jam album for one reason above all though - for all the talk on previous Jam records about Foxton�s melodic basslines carrying the tune and Buckler�s solid drumming grounding the songs, �Sound Affects� is ostensibly Paul Weller�s album and was born out of his desire for R & B ad psychedelia-themed experimentation. It carries his signature �social commentary� all the way through it. Indeed, Weller has since been quoted as saying that this is his favourite Jam album. This is a clear indication on the state of the band at the time � Buckler and Foxton were uncomfortable leaving the signature Jam sound behind, whereas Paul Weller was uncomfortable with his celebrity status and growing tired on his audience (and band mates) narrow minds. One album after this The Jam would be over, but �Sound Affects� stands true to it�s album title and Weller�s belief in the power of music � it is a triumphant collection of songs that span different approaches to music but pull together to form an enjoyable half hour, and is unquestionably one of The Jam�s finest moments.