The Jam's Setting Sons was originally planned as a concept album about three childhood friends who, upon meeting after some time apart, discover the different directions in which they've grown apart. Only about half of the songs ended up following the concept due to a rushed recording schedule, but where they do, Paul Weller vividly depicts British life, male relationships, and coming to terms with entry into adulthood. Weller's observations of society are more pointed and pessimistic than ever, but at the same time, he's employed stronger melodies with a slicker production and comparatively fuller arrangements, even using heavy orchestration for a reworked version of Bruce Foxton's "Smithers-Jones." Setting Sons often reaches brilliance and stands among the Jam's best albums, but the inclusion of a number of throwaways and knockoffs (especially the out-of-place cover of "Heat Wave" which closes the album) mars an otherwise perfect album.
AllMusic Review by Chris Woodstra