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Sun Certainly Is The Centre!
on 31 May 2001
Paul has always had a solo obsession with the sun. Here it has illuminated him into a much needed change of direction after the raucous Heavy Soul. It's better produced, better thought out, and better played, as if to compensate the sometimes jarring aspects of it's rough and ready predecessor. More laid back and accoustic, but nevertheless essential, Heliocentric is a shining example of the man with his back against the wall, coming up with the goods.
Not that there isn't time for rocking out. There's No Drinking After You're Dead leaps out of the speakers like nothing heard from Paul in the last twenty years. He's The Keeper is a tad slower, but never fails to grab the attention, and is well worth checking out live.
TSC rear their head in the beligerent shanty A Whale's Tale, which while upbeat is probably the weakest song on the album. With some fans this competes with Sweet Pea, his ode to his daughter Leah. You either love or hate it. It's quite a nice jaunty little tune, and pleasant enough, but was a mistake as a single. Back in the fire almost goes back to Wild Wood, dreamy and surreal, with almost a touch of hip hop in the production technique. Picking Up Sticks is a great piece of psychadelia, addictive and interspersed with what is more a drum break, than a solo, it benefits from shifting up a gear into a funked up jam at the end.
The real strengths lie in the ballads though. Frightened shows the vulnerable Paul in a way he's not shown before, and it's charming. Dust and Rocks is a high spot, tender and warm, it also boasts what is perhaps the finest outro of Weller's career. With Time and Temperance shows the Nick Drake influence to the full, while exploring the marriage break up yet again. Then there's Loveless. Epic and beautiful, it gets to where TSC's Confessions album never quite managed, and makes you wish he had in the first place. All of these bolstered by the superb string arrangements of Robert Kirby show the man maybe mellowing, but when he's mellowing so nicely, and obviously better than appeared after the dispensable Brand New Start, you don't seem to mind.
A great summer album, and a great example of Paul's gentler side. Jam fans may be divided, but general Paul and music fans should find something worth the investment here.