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Once again half realized songs
on 24 March 2012
Being exactly the same age as him I have been able to follow Paul Weller's career since the beginning. Like most young men of my age I was a big fan of the Jam, indeed they were the only `punk' band I liked at the time, although that was maybe because they weren't really punks. Again like many Jam fans I couldn't really get on with the Style Council at the time and I wondered what Weller was doing, although I have since learnt to appreciate them, and of course it's easy to forget that the Jam's final recordings sounded more like the Style Council than they did early Jam.
By the time Weller had gone solo at the beginning of the 90's my interest in music was at an all time low, consequently he'd gone totally off my radar and I missed out on all his early solo albums. It wasn't until my interest in music was rekindled by Britpop, just as it began to demise, that I caught up with Paul's solo stuff and I began retrospectively purchasing some of them to add to my complete Jam and single best of Style Council collections.
Sonik Kicks, like the last few Weller albums, has garnered mixed reviews, some people claiming it's his best yet as they have done with the previous two, others suggesting it leaves much to be desired. I didn't bother with 22 Dreams, whilst I did purchase Wake Up The Nation, but soon sold it again. Sonik Kicks seems to follow in the eclectic and experimental tradition of those albums, however I would suggest it's slightly less experimental and more commercial, and is ultimately the best of the three, however judged objectively it cannot be considered in the same league as Stanley Road or I would say even As Is Now.
Although Weller can be commended for experimenting with his music and not playing safe, it's all very well when the experiments work, unfortunately as often as not they come over as half realized. As suggested there is less experimental stuff on here than on either of his previous two albums; only the opening track, Green (which I dislike) could really be termed as such. There are some decent melodies on Sonik Kicks, more so than on either 22 Dreams or Wake Up The Nation. However for me, the major problem remains, and this is that many of the tunes seem half realized or unfinished, coming across as demos, whether this is because once again the songs are quite often very short, but that's the impression I get. A number of tunes on Wake Up The Nation clocked in at under two minutes and here a few are barely more than two minutes. For example the second song The Attic is a catchy number, but it lasts just over two minutes. I remember in an early Jam interview Weller saying how much he hated long songs, and whilst I'm no fan of length for the sake of it, surely a proper, fully realized song needs three to four minutes to develop, and if you have a catchy melody you run with it rather than discarding it before it's barely got going? Unfortunately on here the longer songs tend to be the less interesting.
The other problem is that Weller never had the greatest singing voice, although in the Jam he could get away with it on the rockers. His voice did dramatically improve on the early solo albums, but whether it's because of aging, it seems to have reverted back to that early bark to some extent which isn't really suited to slower songs and ballads.
I do like much of Sonik Kicks, the third track King I Klang, another catchy up tempo number is currently my favourite, I also enjoy Around the Lake, whilst the single That Dangerous Age is okay, but I find By The Waters, Paperchase and Be Happy Children tedious and pieces such as Sleep of The Serene and the twenty second throwaway Twilight a waste of space, he would have been better developing the proper songs.
Ultimately I do think Sonik Kicks is inconsistent, less so than the previous two albums, but to claim it's the best thing he's ever done, as some people seem to do so with the latest offering of every artist, is simply untrue. I know why people do this because when they first hear something it sounds fresh and new, but before writing their unstinting praise they need to step back a little, give it some time and consider will I still be listening to this or will people still be playing it in ten or twenty years' time? And whilst the Jam are still played, as is Stanley Road, and even the Style Council, I would question whether Sonik Kicks, Wake Up the Nation or 22 Dreams will be.