on 1 September 2009
In the 90's, critics revelled in calling this the 'readily ignored' solo album, given that this was the start of one of the greatest comebacks of all time on the British music scene, that seems to have been a misjudgement and then some. Having disbanded The Jam at just the right time, then run The Style Council into the ground, Weller had gone to ground, and gone back to basics, writing songs top to bottom on piano and guitar. He went back to playing live, playing around with covers and playing around with new ideas. This is Weller's great transitional album, it really is Weller as you'd not heard him before, and how you'd never quite hear him again.
The self titled solo debut takes, in soul, acid jazz, r and b, funk and blends them into a technicolour summery world of it's own. The layered production by Brendan Lynch, mature playing from Weller himself, Jacko Peake's omnipresent flute and sax and of course, Steve White's amazing drumming all combine to make an effect that is really like nothing else.
Uh Huh Oh Yeah is a strong, funky opener, based around a strong hofner bass line, jangly guitar lines, powerful drumming, with a determined lyric about finding one's own self belief.
I Didn't Mean To Hurt You, one of the more strightforward sounding tracks on the disc which highlights Weller's skill as a bass player, as well as what would become the recurring Weller lyrical theme of regret towards a loved one.
Bull Rush takes us back to Weller's lowest period aiming to get back to the very top. Psychedelia filled with mellotron and real flutes, and a mine of keyboards over a sub Who accoustic pattern, which wipes out at the end in a blur of phasing and samples. Sublime.
Round and Round is possibly the weakest track on the album, demoed and performed previously with his then wife, Dee C Lee, this is a straightforward enough funk track with an impassioned vocal.
Remember How We Started is a sultry, steamy sweaty summer soul track, telling about the first time for him and a partner. You can almost feel the sunlight filtering through the curtains hementioned.
Above The Clouds is lighter, summery acid jazz, again searching for self belief, which despite being one of the most obviously commercial tracks on the disc, surprisingly didn't do much to sell as a single.
Clues is abrasive elctro accoustic, folk tinged with Jazz. Weller and White essentially rhyffing off each other in an intense midsection while Peake tops it all off with some wild flute.
Into Tommorrow was the single whcih signalled to Weller nmore than anyone else that he had found his 'way again'. Hard edged R and B guitars, an impassioned vocal about forging ahead and spirited playing all round.
Amongst Butterflies contains the first appearance by Marco Nelson on bass, who would be Weller's studio player for the next three albums in the main. A summery Acid Jazz paean to lost innocence with a sprightly step.
The Strange Museum dates back to the late daysof the Style Council, with Mick Talbot sharing his final writing credit with Weller. A strange, dark interlude with gently played wulitzer piano and soft drumming, creating a sinister feel.
Bitterness Rising is an exercise in dynamics, playing from soft to loud, to soft to incredibly loud at the end. A more straightforward rock track, following the lyrical theme of self belief once more.
Kosmos stands a real high in Weller's canon of writing. An introspection on the human spirit set to a whirl of multilayed effects and instruments, blurred together by Brendan Lynch over one of the most interesting chord patterns Weller has ever taken to.
on 17 February 2008
I don't know Paul Weller personally but I have noticed that he is a man rarely prone to not knowing exactly what he wants.
It seems that once he has subscribed to a particular idea, the idea becomes an obsession at the cost of virtually everything else. There was once a time (quite a long period of time, actually) when he obsessively hated the idea of `rock music' and steadfastly refused to appear on stage without a full orchestra of keyboard, string, wind and percussion musicians. This idea probably took hold some time in the period between the recording of "Sound Affects" and The Jam's last studio album, "The Gift". It ultimately led to the disintegration of the band at the height of their popularity, for which some people, music critics and fans alike, have never truly forgiven him. (Paul Weller famously quit citing his frustration at the limitations of the guitar-bass-drums format - how ironic is that?).
It also led to five albums (one of which his record company refused to release) featuring a variety of musical styles ranging from Britfunk to northern soul to modern jazz, French ballads to classical music, hip hop to garage house and just about anything in between - just so long as it wasn't `rock music'. You can take your pick from any of those five albums recorded between 1983 and 1989 (or any of The Jam's from 1978 to 1982, post-"The Modern World") and discover plenty of truly great music.
Later on, Paul Weller had another great idea. He fell in love with his guitar again and became a rock musician - the earthy, analogue type that might wear a Marshall Amps T-shirt and reject the kind of `namby-pamby' ideas he had been playing around with in the preceding decade. The instrumentalists were sacked and the guitars were turned up. Out went wedge haircuts and Zeke Manyika and in came Ben Sherman shirts and Noel Gallagher. And that's basically the idea Paul Weller has been exploring in various ways since "Wild Wood", his second solo album from 1994.
But then there is this album which springs from the period between The Style Council's ill-fated experimentation with garage house and the pastoral folk rock of "Wild Wood". How would you bridge that startling divide? Well, this was a period when Paul Weller didn't seem to have a big, all-consuming idea (or maybe he was in-between two of them). The soul-funk-jazz influences are still firmly there but Paul was simultaneously rediscovering his love of sixties pop and psychedelia. He neither scorned digital music nor 'real' instruments. I don't know if this stemmed from his frustration with the latter days of The Style Council or the combined influence of Acid Jazz/Rare Groove and the various indie bands around at the time, which were mixing up dance music rhythms with psychedelic guitar pop (c.f. Stone Roses, The Charlatans).
Either way, as far as I am concerned this is by far the greatest stand-alone album Paul Weller has ever produced - and I include in that his entire recorded output from The Jam onwards. It is an almost perfect pastiche of all those mod influences he had flirted with over the years combined with the kind-of wistful writing style that he mastered on songs such as "Tales From The Riverbank", "Thick As Thieves", "Piccadilly Trail". Producer Brendan Lynch, perhaps slightly influenced by Massive attack, also manages to cook up a wonderfully subtle 'dub' sound that beautifully bridges the gap between analogue and digital. This includes a plethora of samples buried within the music (one of my favourites being Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile" on "Kosmos") and those kind of "Tomorrow Never Knows"-style snatches of reversed music (this overall sound was later stretched to its logical conclusion on the highly acclaimed SXDUB 2000 remix of "Kosmos" which featured as a B-side to "Sunflower"). I have listened to the album hundreds of times over the years and I swear I still hear new things hidden in amongst the various layers of sound. It is also one of those rare albums with which I never skip a track - I love every song and I love the way they sound.
Sadly, the album was panned by the music press and Paul - in his quest for rock authenticity - swiftly moved away from this beautifully textured sound towards the stodgy 'Dadrock' of "Wild Wood" and "Stanley Road (and funnily enough, The Stone Roses did a similar thing at around the same time). It is true that he has had more success than ever during this period but I deeply miss the old Paul Weller. Thankfully, we do have this record of what might have been - and it appears to keep on giving he same pleasure as it gave on the first listen.
And, hey, who knows. Following some distinctly hopeful signs on the last album, "As Is Now", maybe the new album, "22 Dreams" (scheduled for release in June 2008), will recapture the same spirit?
on 14 August 2000
I've been a fan of Paul Weller for years and this is a particular favorite of mine,not only has he inspired a lot of bands today,this is the start of his best material,naturally with outstanding,energetic performances round uk venues. A musical and songwriting genius, a totally cool album.
on 26 October 2006
This is the connoisseurs Weller album. This is his best. Wildwood and Stanley Road are great, but this is his best. I think Weller sounds most comfortable when the songs are lighter. Revelling in his first love.. soul music. Even in the Jam the records improved when there was more of a groove (hear Sound affects, The Gift). To look deeper, listen to the production on this album and to the same extent Wildwood compared to the clunky, stodgy rock of his later albums. Paul Weller is a great singer..honest. and it's audible more here than any other solo effort. A still young artist revelling in his new found freedom, this is Weller full of enthusiasm and sounding fresh and once again a vital force.