By the time Paul Weller went into the studio to record this album, along with fellow band members Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler, the continuation of Setting Sons he had already made it, and the Jam were the most popular band in the UK. Their recent single Going Underground/Dreams Of Children had given them their first number one and the first pre-released single from this album, Start! would follow shortly after its release in August 1980, with the band in the middle of the recording of the album.
Therefore, we could consider this record the culmination of the short career of this mythical trio. Here they have already opened up to new influences, beyond the Kinks, the Beatles and the Small Faces, but Weller is still happy with the trio format, something that will have changed by the time they release their next, and final, album, The Gift.
According to their main man, Weller, this album was a mix between The Beatles' Revolver, something evident in Start! a song built on Taxman's bass riff, and Michael Jackson's Off The Wall, which had appeared a year earlier. But we shouldn't forget that this is the album in which the Jam sound more contemporary, because they have also assimilated the sounds of some of the post-punk bands such as Joy Division and Gang Of Four.
Something of all these musical influences can be seen at the beginning, on Pretty Green, which provides an example of how to mix post punk with the Jam’s personal sound. Monday is further proof of the influence of the Beatles, and particularly Revolver, as it is a great melodic piece reminiscent of the great classics of the 60s; halfway between baroque pop and psychedelia. On the other hand, I'm Different Now and Set the House Ablaze are two of the band's own hits that could have been included on Setting Sons, while Start! sees them moving into psychedelic territory, and the horn section at the end are the first signs that Weller is beginning to broaden his sonic horizons. This can also be heard on the wonderful song that closes the first side, the acoustic That's Entertainment, in which he paints poetic vignettes based on scenes of dark urban decay. On this song he leaves aside his beloved Rickenbackers 330 and uses an Ovation Custom Legend. The song was so powerful that, despite not being released as a single in the UK, it ended up in the charts anyway… thanks to imported copies.
The guitars played backwards from Dream Time recall echoes of Revolver, in particular of I'm Only Sleeping, and then return to the psychedelic melodic path of the mid-60s. Man In The Corner Shop is the third classic on the album - after Start! and That's Entertainment - as it has an irresistible melody and contains social commentary that Weller was so fond of, and an eternal motto "God created all men equal". Scrape Away closed the album with a powerful bass riff by Foxton, and Weller spitting anger into both the lyrics and into his Rickenbacker.
The Modfather was in the middle of a creative fever, as you can see if you take into account that he left out one of his best songs, Liza Radley, which was also recorded in these sessions; and released it as the B side of Start! That's why it is understandable that 40 years later he still considers it his favorite Jam record, the one that best defines them and, possibly because of that, the moment he realized it was time to start looking elsewhere, musically speaking.