Top critical review
on 12 February 2016
There are plenty of people out there who regard Paul Weller’s time alongside keyboardist Mick Talbot in the 1980s in this eclectic, anti-rock group as nothing more than the embarrassing interlude between his early work with The Jam, and his long-running solo career. I don’t suppose the Hitler Youth hair he can be found sporting on the awful-looking cover of this clumsily-named, stopgap compilation will help much either. But this TV-advertised Greatest Hits - which includes a few long 12” versions - does its best to rescue them from the condescension of posterity.
Whilst it is undeniable that their back catalogue was marked by unevenness and self-indulgence, they still chalked up some gems. Elegant soulful ballads like ‘You're the Best Thing’, ‘Long Hot Summer’, ‘My Ever Changing Moods’, and ‘Have You Ever Had it Blue?’, shoo away those who would choose to bracket them with horrors like the Thompson Twins and Howard Jones. Upbeat, radio-friendly songs with a Northern Soul beat, such as 'Speak Like A Child' and 'A Solid Bond in Your Heart', are a reminder of how Weller often found himself dancing in a self-consciously awkward fashion on Top Of The Pops on a Thursday night. The overtly political approach of the exclamatory pair ‘Walls Come Tumbling Down!’ and ‘Shout to the Top!’ reflect the fact that they were the only pop group to do benefits for the miners, take part in Red Wedge, and perform at Live Aid.
When this collection - their first Greatest Hits - was released in 1989 they were at loggerheads with Polydor. Despite that it reached number 3 in the UK Album Chart, and it stayed on the charts for 15 weeks. Yet no space can be found in the 69 minute running order for subsequent compilation fixtures like 'Headstart For Happiness', 'Come To Milton Keynes', and 'The Paris Match’, and the decision not to order the material chronologically also can't hide the truth that the group - who had started off with a loose, flexible line-up that reflected their broad-minded ethos – carried on for too long. For instance, awkward lyrics and clumsy rhythms sink 1988’s self-produced 'Life At The Top People’s Health Farm'. Weller had said it was his attempt at a modern version of Bob Dylan’s ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’, but its relatively mediocre chart placing of number 28 tells another story.