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Saturday 25 November 2017

Paul Weller - The Modfather still going strong


Ultra-serious, ultra-cool Paul Weller is releasing his 25th studio album
Ultra-serious, ultra-cool Paul Weller is releasing his 25th studio album
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Paul Weller's 25th studio album - 40 years on from 'In The City' - is one his best in many years.

I wanna say, I wanna tell you

About the young ideas

But you turn them into fears

In the city there's a thousand faces, all shining bright

And those golden faces are under twenty-five.

It seems like only yesterday but it is - count 'em - four decades since Paul Weller barked those poetic, beautiful words to In The City with his band The Jam.

"It doesn't feel that long because it's gone so quickly," Weller says now. "Obviously, when I look back on it, yeah, that's a long time. I would hope I've changed in that time; it would be pretty sad if I hadn't. The only thing that's the same is I'm still sitting in dressing rooms waiting to go on stage or in studios trying to write a song. That hasn't changed too much in 40 years. But me as a person, I've changed considerably - hopefully, anyway. It's nice to feel there's been some sort of progress."

Also hard to believe is that the changing man, the Modfather, now almost 60, is about to release his 25th studio album, A Kind Revolution, a peace-and-love follow-up to 2015's Saturns Pattern.

As Mojo magazine put it in its review, A Kind Revolution shows that Weller's "Indian summer of creativity - one that started with 2008's 22 Dreams - shows no sign of ending." Glad to hear it.

I grew up as a kid idolising Weller, obsessing over every release, every lyric, every interview. Jam albums like All Mod Cons and Sound Affects got me into the literature of George Orwell and the poetry of Shelley and Keats as a teenager more than any teacher at De La Salle College in Churchtown ever did. I was into anything this ultra-serious ultra-cool young man from Woking was into.

With age, my interest in Weller is not as strong as it was back then. I don't rush out and buy his albums like I used to. I still think he is a better lyricist than Elvis Costello or Noel Gallagher.

You can see why the latter idolised Weller and you can hear Weller's influence on so many bands that came after The Jam and, to a lesser degree, The Style Council.

I just kind of lost my way with Weller over the years. I had other things on my mind, but I always tried to keep an eye out for him, mostly if I heard that a new Weller album was worth listening to.

Some of them (like Heavy Soul) have been best avoided. But A Kind Revolution, is one of Weller's finest albums in a good few years.

There's the beguiling alt-gospel of The Cranes are Back. There's the magic balladry of Long Long Road, which has a touch of The Dark End of the Street in it, even Let It Be. There's P.P. Arnold on the New Orleans-y r'n'b of Woo Se Mama.

There's the untouchable Robert Wyatt adding his genius to the excellent She Moves with the Fayre. There's Boy George getting funky for Paul on One Tear. There's echoes of David Bowie and early Pink Floyd on Nova, with The Strypes' Josh McClorey on guitar, and Weller singing: "I can't seem to let it go / There's too much to do." The romantic groove of New York is also worth listening to, even if you don't know the song's inspiration. If you don't, I'll let the man himself fill you in. "The song came about because it's how I met my wife," Weller explained. "You know, we met in New York many, many years ago. Just by chance we ended up in the same bar. The vibe in it came from a beat that the producer came up with, and I was kind of imagining a New York Latino vibe.

"I don't know if you get that from the track, because it's like a lot of influences - it comes from whatever you're thinking of at the time. I know it sounds nothing like that to other people, but that's cool, really, because it means it's gone through a filter and come out sounding different."

You have to love the man.

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