For me, music begins with John Lennon. The very first step after that is Paul Weller.
And it’s always been that way.
Ever since I heard Sound Affects by The Jam back in 1981, Paul Weller has taken me on where no other artist (save John, of course) has really taken me. A few come close…Todd Rundgren…Joe Jackson…U2…Oasis…but none really compare to Weller simply because his mark on the music world has been so exciting and diverse. The Jam were punk, soul, and absolutely fun pop with a few ballads thrown in for seasoning. The Style Council were smooth jazz, cafe chic, solid R&B, symphonic pastorals, and house music before there was such a thing.
His solo career began with acid jazz and then segued into hippie soul, power trio bombast, and psychedelia. His last record, Wake Up The Nation, charted even newer (and older) territory that completely took the UK music scene by storm. Bruce Foxton, former bass player for The Jam, even played on the punked up track, “Fast Car-Slow Traffic.” Praises were showered over him and the word was that he was moving beyond his moniker, The Modfather, and into God Like Genius mode.
With his latest release, Sonik Kicks, there is no doubt that he has arrived to lord over us from musical heaven. This 14 track album (16 if you spring for the Deluxe Edition) is simply magnificent. I’d use the phrase “tour de force” but that would be paltry in illustrating how truly amazing this fucking record is by the man who has been the soundtrack to my life of for the last 30 years.
With a nod to Kraut Rock, the album opens with “Green,” an explosion of aural delight that sends one’s heart racing directly into the matrix. “The Attic” is next with its wistful nostalgia. “Kling I Klang” could easily be on All Mod Cons or Setting Sons. “Sleep of the Serene,” a trippy instrumental, dovetails nicely with the acoustic beauty of “By The Waters.” On these last two tracks, Weller seems to be going back to the VERY under-appreciated Style Council record, Confessions of a Pop Group. “That Dangerous Age,” is the first single from the album, is next and laments the trials of being a parent to teenagers.
At this point I was already in love with the record and wasn’t fully prepared when the next track took it up another notch. “Study in Blue” completely blew me away. It could easily be on any Style Council album with its smooth cafe sound. And me, being the hopeless romantic, was completely sucked in to the abundance of amore that spills out on this track. Having his wife Hannah sing on the track was simply brilliant as her voice adds to the perfect and never changing mood.
“Dragonfly” and “Around the Lake” are more tracks that sounds Jam-ish (The Gift era, towards the end), each with a dash of macabre thrown in. “When You’re Garden’s Overgrown” brings us back to Kraut Rock but with that signature Weller melody and refrain. This is my second favorite track on the album as Weller takes a page lyrically from the biting commentary of Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. The link track “Twilight” steams ahead nicely into “Drifters” sonic and aural panorama. Listening to the latter track, one is simply stunned at how fresh Weller sounds. “Paperchase” reminds me of Berlin era Bowie.
The album proper closes with a loving message to his ever growing brood of kids, “Be Happy Children.” An upbeat message for all of us, really, Weller indeed sounds happier than he ever has and why not? His music is more relevant, wonderful, and, indeed, more innovative than ever!
The Deluxe Edition contains the single from last year, “Starlite,” which is devastatingly gorgeous and “Devotion,” an acoustic rock jaunt that will put a smile on your face. I highly recommend plunking down the extra greenbacks and getting it.
Here’s my favorite track from the album, “Study in Blue.”