A celebration of the LP, the long-player, the album music format. Reviews, recommendations and discussion.
I’ve had a rather intermittant relationship with Paul Weller. Leaving his work in various bands aside his solo records have fleetingly got onto my personal playlist but never really established themselves.
I’m partial to a bit of Stanley Road and Wild Wood, but some of his later stuff didn’t really do much for me. I heard good things about his recent-ish 22 Dreams album but not quite enough to make me buy the thing. But the hype surrounding the follow up Sonik Kicks became to much for me to resist.
So is it any good? Actually it’s not bad at all.
There is a distinct electronic feel running right through it which I heartily applaud, and the song structure and instrumentation is definitely on the experimental side which maintains your interest throughout.
The album starts well with the impressive “Green”, a nice bit of electro rock with some interesting audio tinkering halfway through.
This is followed by a couple of what can only be described as pop songs (and I don’t mean that in a bad way), which are nice enough but with Weller’s cockney vocals only just manage to stay the right side of Knees Up Mother Brown territory.
The first half continues with the compelling instrumental “Sleep Of The Serene”, the 90’s-Weller sounding “By The Waters” and the very, very good single “That Dangerous Age”.
So far so not-bad. The second half however is a far more interesting bag of nuts. It feels like Paul is really pushing things in this second set of songs and trying all sorts of new directions, the majority of which turn out very well.
“Dragonfly” and “When Your Garden’s Overgrown” are two of the strongest songs I’ve heard from Paul Weller in many years and musically very absorbing.
The industrial pop of “Around The Lake” and the swooning vertiginous “Drifters” build on this strong base.
There are some weak tracks here though as well. “Paper Chase” feels like 60’s pop-by-numbers and “Study In Blue” is….well, smooth (in all the bad ways). The latter also has a female vocalist who, although in possession of a perfectly fine voice, doesn’t belong on this record, she just sounds out of place. She also pops up on the frankly nauseating “Be Happy Children”, an extraordinarily limp ending which the skip button seems made for.
Talking of fine voices I have to mention the performance of Mr Weller himself. Unfortunately I have never had the highest regard for The Modfather’s vocal abilities. I mean, they’re alright, but he seems to have two ways of singing….his ‘rock’ voice and his ‘ballad’ voice, and that’s about it. Consequently I find it difficult to drum up any enthusiasm for his singing. Which is a bit of a shame because musically this is some of the most interesting stuff he’s done. Just a pity there isn’t an interesting voice to do it justice.
Despite the vocal performance and the few weaker tracks overall I thought this was a pretty good record, not perfect but definitely worth spending a bit of time with.
Kling I Klang
Sleep Of The Serene
By The Waters
That Dangerous Age*
Study In Blue
When Your Garden’s Overgrown
Around The Lake
Be Happy Children
* = standout tracks