16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Weller in TECHNICOLOUR !!,
This review is from: Paul Weller (Audio CD)
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?