Review: Paul Weller – Sonik Kicks
Published on March 30th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
I’ll come right out with it; I’m not/wasn’t a fan of Paul Weller. Sure, those classic Jam and Style Council hits registered – how could they not? – but the musty whiff of Mod kept me from investigating any of his admittedly much-lauded solo material.
My one concession to solo Weller was his 2002 single “It’s Written in the Stars”; so fresh, so heart-warmingly melodic and flaunting a brass sample to die for. The CD single was procured, but its parent album Illumination never investigated. It was surely a one-off, the accidental by-product of collusion with a talented new producer or some such. Surely?
“That Dangerous Age” took me equally by surprise; a swaggering beat, beaming melody, luxurious brass section and just the right amount of croon in Weller’s vocals, even if his wearily delivered opening lines “When he wakes up in the morning / It takes him time to adjust” does conjure images of Grampa Simpson chasing a turtle to get his false teeth back. Fortunately, the rest of the song is a slice of psych-pop gold, a plastic soul trip to rival “Juxtapozed With U” by Super Furry Animals.
“That Dangerous Age”
This time, I delved further, and thank goodness I did; otherwise I would never have encountered the squelchy blast of the sound collage-like “Green”, the sly string section wrapping itself around the sunny pop trot of “The Attic” like some benevolent anaconda, the frantic bounce of “Kling I Klang”, the pastoral elegance of “By the Water”, the unexpectedly well-executed dub stylings of “Study in Blue”…well, I could go on.
And I will; the moody and mysterious “Dragonfly”, the wistful Syd Barrett tribute (not pastiche!) “When Your Garden’s Overgrown”, the motorik beat of “Around the Lake”, the menacing-verging-on-military “Drifters”, the Eastern-stringed mini-epic “Paper Chase”, or the constantly shifting, everything-you-might-know-about-Weller-confounding “Be Happy Children”, which sounds like it could have come straight off of Montreal’s latest album. It feels very strange to have just written that, but there you go.
Throughout the album, the mix is involving, busy, colourful, psychedelic and satisfyingly disorienting, even in places recalling Up in Flames by Caribou alter ego Manitoba (again, strange…), while Weller’s vocals maintain a marvellous texture whether cracked, crazy or crooning.
“Around the Lake”
Weller himself has described Sonik Kicks as “ground-breaking…well, for me it is”, and it most certainly is, especially given the more traditional rock and roll stylings of preceding album Wake Up the Nation. It has been suggested that Weller’s critical renaissance of recent years owes itself much to producer and co-writer Simon Dine, and that a financial dispute between the two shall likely spell the end of this creative partnership. As such, it’ll be interesting to see what the next album holds.
Whatever Paul Weller is like as a man – and this sort of thing is rather off-putting, as well as his supposed taking the piss out of Rocksucker favourites The Boo Radleys backstage at Top of the Pops many moons ago – he’s turned in a belter of an album here. Fair play, and in the interests of balance, he reveals his soft side in the final lines of the album: “My love knows no limits when it comes to loving you / And my whole world is with you / And I’m always on your side”.
That reminds me, his wife features on two tracks, showing off a delicate but agreeable set of pipes. Should probably have mentioned that earlier, but if a Paul Weller album can feature artsy sound collages then it would appear that there are now no rules. So, balls to traditional album review structure.
Rocksucker says: Eight-and-a-Half Quails out of Ten!