Things took something of a nosedive with “The Modern World” single barely nudging into the singles charts, quickly followed by the LP. Quality control seemed to have been pushed to the side somewhat, as the bulk of the song writing appears to have been rushed through at short notice. The production seemed to suffer as well, with Bruce Foxton’s bass not as prominent has it had been on previous recordings up to that point, Paul Weller’s guitars not as clear and crisp as on “In The City” and Rick Buckler’s drums appeared to sound a bit tinny to this listener’s ears.
On to the songs then. “The Modern World” could be seen as Weller’s attempt to tell his detractors “I’ll do things my way, and if you don’t like it….” The single version was censored for radio play (“I don’t give a damn about your review”) but you could sense the anger in his voice if you were to hear the album version. As well as Weller, Foxton contributes two numbers on this LP. “London Traffic”, though probably shouldn’t have been on there according to producer Chris Parry, describing it as “an awful track”, while “Don’t Tell Them You’re Sane” reads like a third form essay on a mental patient. As for the rest of the songs, the lyrics for “Standards” could easily have been lifted from soundbites from one of those party political rallies while “The Combine” bemoans the difficulty of an individual trying to fit in with “The Crowd”. Other songs like “London Girl”, “Here Comes The Weekend” and “I Need You (For Someone)” would have worked had they been better developed and produced. (And if you want a good illustration of that point, compare live recordings of those songs with the LP versions and you’ll see what I mean.)
As for the rest of the material, In The Street, Today” (which credits Weller’s friend and former band-mate Dave Waller as a co-writer) is rushed through to the point of failing to get its message across, whereas “Tonight At Noon” and “Life From A Window” sees Weller adding acoustic guitars to the arsenal, and although it doesn’t quite come off as successfully as he would have liked, the results are mildly encouraging - as they’d be used to greater effect on later songs like “English Rose” and “That’s Entertainment”. A hastily rushed version of Wilson Pickett’s “In The Midnight Hour” - another favourite from the band’s early live sets - closes out the album .
It’s probably easy to see why the critics were as harsh as they were when “This Is The Modern World” first came out, but it probably shows that there was a lot more to this LP than just “In The City” part 2, and when I first bought the album a few years later I felt that it was one of those which would probably grow on me after several plays.
It may have been something of a low point for the band back then, especially as their label Polydor rejected demos for a proposed third LP in 1978. But Weller and co. just picked themselves up, dusted themselves down, and started all over again…