with the age. ‘Going Underground‘. despite being built on the foundations laid by his mod influences. sounded as up-to-the-minute as anything else in 1980; the early Style Council was an accurate signpost to where British pop musicians were heading in the first part of that decade.
Fast forward to l993. and after dipping a toe in the water with his debut solo album. Weller plugged right back into the zeitgeist with Wild anl. All around. Britpop was flourishing as those who had idolist The Jam started denting the charts. and the
The backlash was not long in coming. Weller. Gallagher. Ocean Colour Scene and the rest have been attacked for fostering a retro. musically conservative and offputtingly chummy scene. while the real innovation was going on elsewhere. Not true. ofcourse — you can’t force people to buy records they don’t want — but the traditional values they espoused seemed almost like a Luddite reaction to the vitality of the dance scene.
Weller‘s latest album Heavy Soul comes as a timely warning of the onset of diminishing returns. The power he has
‘Perhaps people are right: perhaps life does begin at 40. Life began at 30 for me, really.’ PaulWeller
movement formed a mutually beneficial alliance with the reinvigorated Modfather. Trad—rock bands like Cast and Supergrass cleaned up with their debut albums. and the struggling Ocean Colour Scene found themselves stars at last — Weller’s band even included two members of OCS until very recently. Weller duetted with Noel Gallagher on national TV and Damon Albarn cited him as a major inspiration.
It allowed him to stride into a figurchead role with an authority that would have been unimaginable a few years earlier. Watching Paul Weller on stage at outdoor festivals. delivering new songs in that gruff. committed way and squeezing extended solos out of his Gibson. it was tempting to think of him as a British Neil Young — a punch—drunk survivor coming back for another bout. still capable of summoning up sporadic brilliance.
harnessed over the last few years is tending towards sluggishness (always a danger when trying to combine R&B springiness with hard-rock intensity. Look at the Vanilla Fudge back in the 60s). It‘s a sign that perhaps he‘s been ploughing the same furrow for too long. There's nothing. sadly. on Heavy Soul with the elegiac splendour of ‘Stanley Road‘ or the neo-psyehedelic sweep of ‘Shadow Of The Sun’.
The time could be ripe for another career reappraisal. the kind of quantum leap that raised the very different Style Council from the ashes of The Jam and. later. the vigorous. dynamic figure of the solo Paul Weller. On the evidence of Heavy Saul. a mid-life crisis could the best thing for all concerned.
Paul Weller plays the Main Stage on Sun 13 Jul. 5
Tm ran pm:
Lest we forget, here are some of Paul Weller’s purest moments. . .
Away From The Numbers (May 77) Effectiveness of Weller muse apparent from this early psychedelic/mod pop song, standing out from the comparatively lumpen fare surrounding it on ﬁrst Jam album.
Eton Rifles (Oct 79) Unamused by such public-school japery as debagging and ‘fagging’. Weller cements ﬁrebrand reputation by bringing the class war to its doorstep. Ivor Novello award sadly not forthcoming. -
Going Underground (Feb 80) Arguably The Jam’s ﬁnest studio performance, Weller attacking his Rickenbacker with such vigour that one fears for its neck and his elbow. A prime example of how to take well-trodden inﬂuences and make them come up fresh as paint.
That's Entertainment (Nov 80)
A chilling and ﬁnely-wrought trawl through Thatcher’s Britain. If ‘Down In The Tube Station’ sounded as if it had been penned in the casualty ward. this one came over like the product of a nasty hangover.
Speak Like A Child (Mar 83) Only partially forced-sounding emergence of jollity into the Weller canon as he launches The Style Council. A bold new soulful manifesto proposed. some of it even fulﬁlled.
Long Hot Summer (Jul 88) Getting madder with the passing seasons. The Style Council redeemed themselves with this, their only American hit. The video. with hazy hints of homoerotic horseplay in the herbage (with Mick Talbot! Eek!) possible Colin Mclnnes wet dream made flesh.
Sunﬂower (Jul 93) Absurdly conﬁdent opener to Wild Wood album. deceptive simplicity concealing welter of songwriting tricks, not the least of which being a trick ending you wish would go on forever. Wild Wood (Aug 93) Social realism having gone the way of Old Labour, Modfather proves dab hand at mellow and metaphorical acoustic pastorals. On same album, Weller asked ‘Has my ﬁre really gone out?’ Answer on ‘Wild Wood’ unambiguous.
Shadow Of The Sun (Sep 94) Hippyish title included, all quintessential elements of latterday Weller present and correct on this splendid cut. Coda custom-built for blowing minds at open-air festivals merely icing on cake.
Stanley Road (May 95) Unashamed childhood nostalgia-fest possibly inspired by
‘Penny Lane’ (or. indeed, Abbey Road) and driven along by insistent piano hook. Title track and. fortunately. best track of last album. (Alastair Mabbott)
For T in the Park ticket and accommodation information see page 13.
To win a copy of Paul Weller's latest album Heavy Soul see competitions, page 100.
27 Jun—10 Jul 1997 THE "ST?