As the title ["This Is the Modern World"] makes clear, the album's ostensible theme is the modern world, and contains … obviously contemporary lyrics….
Yet, as everyone knows, the Jam hark back to the mod mid-Sixties and Swingin' London….
[Even] some of the song-themes smack of the Sixties—complaints about "London Traffic" were rife then; "London Girl" is [David] Bowie's "London Boys" revisited (though no less relevant for that); and they've admitted that "Here Comes The Weekend" was a reworking of [The Easybeats's] "Friday On My Mind."
None of this matters as long as the material is fresh and exciting and transcends the limitations of a museum tribute…. Much of the record suffers, though, precisely because it's typical Jam—"Standards," "Here Comes The Weekend," "In The Street Today" and "The Modern World" are all adequate, but thoroughly ordinary, and don't represent any development on their first album, "In The City."
Some of the songs are lyrically weak as well. Take these well-meaning but ridiculous lines from a description of a frantic weekend's pleasure-seeking, much less effective than the Clash's "48 Hours." "If we tell you that you got two days to live / Then don't complains 'co that's one more than you got in Zaire / So don't hang around and be foolish / Do something constructive with your weekend." The expression is redolent of the earnest excess of sixth-form...
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