While his live albums and compilations fare poorly in the charts, Paul Weller’s studio albums continue to contradict his supposed unpopularity. Bar his solo debut release, they all hit the top 5 of the album charts, with ten reaching the top two. Dad rock is, it seems, alive and kicking.
While he was held as the figurehead of the genre, Weller was never of or in it. As English as Ray Davies, and more enduringly popular. The Jam generation grew up with the ‘spokesman for a generation’ and stayed loyal.
As popular as it would be to see the Jam once more, they were a band for the youth of then. Musically influential, there’s a sense their flame would be dimmed it if happened.
And as we’ve matured, Weller’s music has as well. The past influences the present but never dictates it, and this is apparent on A Kind Revolution, his most accessible album since As Is Now.
Released today, it’s his Filmore-era record; there’s a late sixties/early seventies vibe with hints of The Style Council and Sound Affects thrown in for good measure.
The vibrant Woo Sé Mama gets things started with its’ funky groove, with Ray Manzerak keyboard riffs as the song closes. Weller’s vocals, gruffer with age, lift the track – and the bluesier Satellite Kid – away from the ordinary.
Nova, one of the two singles which trailed the album, follows the path laid by Sound Affects. Weller admitted that the album was influenced by Joy Division’s “angular guitars”, and the track takes them into the Twilight Zone in the same off-kilter way as She Moves With The Fayre, an albeit slower and more soulful riff.
The beauty of the album is never getting too comfortable or into a rut. While Long Long Road is the song Ocean Colour Scene desperately tried to write for years, it loops into the piano-driven The Cranes Are Back, with its infection slow, gospel-tinged beat. Only on the plodding Hopper does the album fall flat.
Weller has never been shy of wearing his influences on his sleeve. New York, a blaxploitation soundtrack in the making, takes you back to Harlem, only to be yanked into the 80s with One Tear. A Boomtown Rats piano intro moves into the ethereal vocals and house beat of A New Decade. The Style Council never quite made it to The Promised Land but One Tear bridges the gap between then and now.
Closing out the album – unless you buy the deluxe edition with its instrumentals of every track and disappointing remixes – is The Impossible Idea, Spin Drifting for the modern generation.
Weller shifts the ground slightly, leaving you comfortable in familiar territory, but not complacent.
Review Rating: 4 stars out of 5
You can buy A Kind Revolution here.