There have been a fair few compilations that have looked to tackle the inconsistent back catalogue of this pretentiously-named, genre-hopping 1980s pop group, who were led by Paul Weller. This 18 song, budget-priced collection - that mixes up singles with album tracks and B-sides - is the latest addition to that list.
To its credit, it features many of the creative high-points of the band's career, such as 'Long Hot Summer', 'My Ever Changing Moods', 'Walls Come Tumbling Down', 'You're The Best Thing', and the title track, 'Shout To The Top'. These successful blue-eyed soul singles are a potent reminder that the second phase of Paul Weller's long-running career - after the stratospheric success he had enjoyed with The Jam - wasn't half as bad as it has often been portrayed. (They managed a very creditable 7 Top 10 singles) Pleasant, jazzy, piano instrumentals 'Mick's Company', and 'Le Depart', highlight the often understated influence of Mick Talbot - previously a member of the Merton Parkas and Dexy's Midnight Runners - on the group's sound. It would be true to say that The Style Council were definitely a group who took Adam Ant's dictum that, "ridicule is nothing to be scared of", to heart. But compiler Johnny Chandler has sensibly avoided selection some of their failed musical experiments in the running order, such as the half-baked satirical skit 'The Stand Up Comic's Instructions', which regrettably married dated slap-bass to a rap by comedian Lenny Henry.
But Shout To The Top has its drawbacks. It manages to omit key songs in the Council's canon - creditable singles such as 'Speak Like A Child', 'Solid Bond In Your Heart', and 'Money-Go-Round' aren't here. In their place, somewhat bewilderingly, are clunky album tracks like 'Homebreakers' and 'The Whole Point Of No Return', which show that politically-motivated pop wasn't always the group's forte. And the final four songs, which embrace the diverse influence of Debussy, Satie, gospel, and Chicago house, provide a disappointing coda to proceedings. These efforts - which are taken from the last 3 disappointing studio albums the group made - confirm what the critical consensus and dwindling sales figures were saying at that time: the group were in creative decline. (Despite Lois Wilson's gushing, uncritical sleevenote claiming that everything that they did was 'superb', 'superlative', and 'soaring')
The definite article in the subtitle of this reasonable collection ('The') is misleading: Shout To The Top doesn't provide the definitive introduction to the occasionally memorable music that The Style Council made between 1983 and 1989.