Paul Weller's never shied away from taking chances and being downright defiant. At the height of the punk era, he and his three-piece band of upstarts, The Jam, were more interested in worshiping Pete Townshend and channeling Steve Marriott. Definitely not a popular stance at that time. But his decision to head in a soul and jazz direction with his next project, Style Council, raised even more eyebrows. It's safe to say that Weller has always spit in the face of convention and he's always liked it that way.
It's nice to see that now, more than 35 years into his career, Weller hasn't gotten soft or lost any of his self-assurance. His newest release, Sonik Kicks, his 11th solo studio album, is possibly his most ambitious work yet.
Bouncing through genres comes easily to the "Modfather." Never one to rest on his previous work or reputation, Weller has steadily taken chances and experimented with sounds and styles more than ever of late. The jazz/ska/dub clash of "Study In Blue" sounds like nothing else he's ever approached. The trippy psychedelia of "Drifters" is augmented by jackknifing guitars, bongo drums and a faux string section.
His subdued, breathy vocals have gotten better with age and have taken on a warmer, more soulful tone. "The Attic" might be one of the catchiest pop tunes he's ever written and includes a hook that'll be stuck in your synapses for days. The frantic urgency of "Kling I Klang" shows that the 53-year-old veteran is in no rush to retire or to take it easy; make no bones about it, the man can still rock as hard as he ever has.
Paul Weller is still a vital artist with a lot to say and many different ways to express what's inside of him. The folks who were hoping Weller would resurrect the mod/punk/soul of The Jam or the R&B/jazz stylings of Style Council could be disappointed. The current model Weller may not be what they're used to, but he's certainly full of surprises and chutzpah; something his rabid fanbase has come to exalt him for.
"That Dangerous Age," the lead single from the album (and by far the funkiest of the 14 new tracks) contains a line that sums up Weller's ambitiousness and desire to constantly push the musical envelope: "...and every chance he gets to fly, he goes far..." Sonik Kicks finds Weller flying off the map and out of the stratosphere on more than a few occasions. Luckily he's still as mystifying and unpredictable as ever. This album is solid proof of that.
Thank you, Paul Weller, for not aging gracefully and for continuing to make music for those of us who have come to expect being thrilled and excited by your commitment to making great records.
Video for "Green" below.
Tyler- I can't believe how talented of a writer you are. This article was beautifully…
Great interview! Give the interviewer a full time job! He's great!
The DJ was actually The Castle's very own DJ Tom Gold :)
Fabulous review Gabe! Too bad I missed it.