Paul Weller- A Kind Revolution (Parlophone/Warner Bros)

Continuing to experiment with his craft, Paul Weller’s new album, A Kind Revolution, finds him trying on styles like suit jackets at a tailors, sometimes to mixed results.  Some songs recall his work with the Style Council (She Moves Through The Fayre,The Impossible Idea) his previous solo Gospel style tunes (Woo Sé Mama/ The Cranes Are Back), 60’s influenced songs (Satellite Kid/ Hopper)and Dub electronic workouts (One Tear).

If all this sounds like familiar territory for fans, subsequent listens reveal a few tweaks here and there to the performances and arrangements. Some of it worked for me, a lot of it didn’t. Usually, an easy way to change your sound is to graft in guests and in the past, he has used Kevin Shields, Graham Coxon, Noel Gallagher and others to good effect. Here he reaches out to Boy George, Robert Wyatt, Josh McClorey (Guitarist from Pub Rock Revivalists The Strypes) and old stalwarts PP Arnold and Madeline Bell who feature prominently on opening track Woo Sé Mama.

Unfortunately, my problems with this album start here. Woo Sé Mama feels like Dad dancing in a song. A 59-year-old trying to funk it up in pop soul swagger song by uttering Woo Sé Mama reminds me of a slapstick comic saying Whoops A Daisy after a physical gag. All the guitar riffing, gospel echoes and Hammond organ stabs in the song still didn’t convince me we were anywhere near New Orleans which is where I presume the song was trying to take me.

Long Long Road highlights another one of my pet hates. The extended wobbly note.  Exhibit A can be found in this otherwise pleasant piano ballad, spoiled as it is by the extension of the word “eyes” into Eyyyyyyyyyyes” Further examples of this vocal technique marr She Moves Through The Fayre and New York.  It seems at some point artists decide they need to show more vocal technique and so show off their voice control by extending notes unnecessarily and wavering them. I can’t take it from recent  Lucinda Williams, I struggled with late Bowie and I am not taking it from Weller. It distracts me from the experience of listening to the music and reminds me that what I am listening to is very much a “Performance” disconnecting me from any emotional content.

Speaking of Bowie, the second track of the album, Nova, shows that The Thin White Duke still casts a long shadow over modern music. It starts with an ominous two note introduction that could be off 1977’s Low and moves to a very Bowie mix of horns and vocals all the while musing on death.  However, it’s synth sweeps and keyboard stabs root it firmly in the 1980’s.

She Moves Through The Fayre builds from a James Brown guitar motif to a middle section that makes good use of swelling strings and a lovely Robert Wyatt trumpet solo. It is followed by The Cranes Are Back a nice beat looped Jazz Gospel piano ballad that is marred by the repetitive lyric which had me yelling at the computer “I know the cranes are ****ing back, What else is new?” It’s a shame as it’s message about the return of Cranes to the UK mainland after four centuries of extinction is worth celebrating in song.

It’s not all bad news. The reverb dub feel of One Tear manages to shake off its influences to really stretch out into a funky workout helped along by guest Boy George. It is followed by the best track on the album to my ears, the genuinly groovy Satellite Kid. Unlike its predecessors, it manages to address the modern phenomenon of young hackers while sounding timeless. Even before laying a wah-wah guitar solo that really fans the flames of the song. Unfortunately, things end limply with the 6/8 acoustic  Impossible Dream which has a chorus that according to NME even Paul Weller admits would work well on Eurovision.

Having spent a couple of weeks listening to this album hoping the things that annoy me  (Wobbly vocals, cliched lyrics, dated production) would disappear I have to say they have only annoyed me more, which is disappointing as I think there are some great ideas on this album that have been marred by poor arrangements. I admire Paul Weller for continuing to try out new combinations of the elements that make his songs work but I don’t think this is an album I will be reaching for too often.

Brent Giblin