It's the time of year for reissues – record companies do a trawl of the anniversaries and package together the 10th, 20th, 25th, 30th regurgitation of anything they hold copyright over. Some albums deserve the treatment, most do not. Setting Sons? Come here to me…
Written when Paul Weller was barely into his 20s, The Jam's fourth album is a loose concept of sorts – a cynical study of British life that was regarded as a supreme effort on Weller's part to shrug off the Mod revival tag that was threatening to undermine the band. It's also a departure from The Jam's previous three albums (1977's In the City and This is the Modern World, and 1978's All Mod Cons) in that the song content is far more politically brash and thematically cohesive.
Songs such as Burning Sky, Wasteland, Thick as Thieves and Little Boy Soldiers directly reference a jettisoned Orwellian-inspired song suite about three childhood friends who reunite as adults following a wartime conflict (the album cover is a photograph of a bronze statue from the permanent collection of London's Imperial War Museum) only to discover that they have drifted apart.
Released a month before The Clash's iconic London Calling, which laid out its socio-political worldview in broad and sometimes punishing strokes, Setting Sons (accompanied here with tour programmes, fanzines, a book and demos) defined Weller as a songwriter who, like his creative mentor, The Kinks' Ray Davies, preferred to highlight comparatively parochial scenarios in finely detailed miniature. Each band has their respective champions, of course, but if there's a prize for a 1970s songwriter that used words instead of slogans to better effect, then Weller takes the gong.