The first chapter (and the one that gives it its name) of my currently unpublished book of music essays TRUE IS THE DREAM MIXED WITH NOSTALGIA deals with Paul Weller and British music. He is an artist I have never had anything but the utmost respect for. A man of true integrity who has resisted putting The Jam back together for a huge cash pay out and a terrific songwriter with Ray Davies’s ear and eye for how people live in the UK and the ability to streamline those observations in songform even more than Davies. He has also got a very natural rock and roll voice which through aging has become even more soulful and traditional and warm a instrument.
He has never really made a bad solo record in addition to every record he made as leader of The Jam and the first two Style Council albums (the rest of the Style Council period was his nadir). When he once again found himself musically and launched a solo career in the early 90’s after the end of the Style Council, he not only inspired listeners but I would argue the whole Britpop scene for which he was sort of an elder statesman for.
SONIK KICKS, his latest solo album, is interesting primarily for the reason that it shows you can teach an old dog new tricks. Weller is now in his early 50’and has made a record that differs from his past solo output by showcasing a heavy use of synthesizers and the sort of programmed percussion that goes along with it. That doesn’t mean he totally eschews his familiar sound-still plenty of guitars, jazzy arrangements etc. His vocals are as human as can be imagined.
Fast automated barn burner hybrids such as “The Attic” and “Kling I Klang” are offset by more traditional Weller fare as “When Your Garden is Overgrown”. Weller’s newfound sound is perhaps best typified by the single “That Dangerous Age” which before Weller’s voice kicks in could be mistaken as being by some lost 80’s New Romantics band. I also like the fact that Weller never overextends a song’s length. Many of the songs here are around three minutes or length except for “Study in Blue” which turns into an open ended musical improv session.
SONIK KICKS bodes well for Weller’s career. We see that he still feels the passion after more than 30 years of making music to break away a bit from his usual sound and try something a little bit different. This is probably his best album of the last ten years, since ILLUMINATION although I would still say my favorite solo album of his is his second WILDWOOD (one of the best albums of the 1990’s IMO).