Just out this week is Paul Weller’s More Modern Classics, a collection that features a selection of his solo work from 1999 to the present.
For some years now Weller’s been dismissed by many as a Dad Rock fuddy duddy, happy just to churn out drenched in nostalgia ditties with Britpop buddies like Steve Cradock and Noel Gallagher. According to one pal of mine, he’s divorced more wives than written truly great songs since his heyday as singer, guitarist and main songwriter with The Jam.
I disagree. Yeah, he did spend too long a time for my liking seemingly trying to recreate the ‘getting it together in the country’ type of sound that Traffic pioneered in the late 1960s but – very possibly coinciding with his decision to give up booze around four years ago – he now appears more eager to embrace new influences and experiment musically than the vast majority of artists of his generation, 2010’s Wake Up The Nation signalling something of a late period renaissance for the Woking man.
Two years later, Sonik Kicks took him even further out of his comfort zone and even witnessed him flirting with Neu! motorik rhythms, which certainly took me aback, kind of like hearing that Kate Bush is dabbling with Oi! or hardcore for her upcoming tour. Paul Weller goes Krautrock? Somehow though it worked and I’d rate Sonik Kicks a much better album than biggies like Stanley Road and Heavy Soul.
The final song of the new collection, Brand New Toy, a special Record Store Day release a couple of months back, is also worth seeking out, a superb slice of modern day music hall glam which I’m sure Ray Davies would have been proud to have penned.
Saying that, this is a far from perfect compilation.Sweet Pea, Sweet Pea is no more a ‘modern classic’ than One Direction are The Velvet Underground and, even worse, is his version of Wishing on a Star. Godawful stuff, Paul, in the hugely unlikely chance that you’re actually reading this, although I’m sure you wouldn’t give two fucks or even a damn about my review (of sorts) anyway.
In case you didn’t get it, that last line was a reference to a lyric of The Jams’ second single The Modern World, which also kicked off their second album This is the Modern World.
One day after school in the winter of 1977, I headed over to Rockabill Records in East Kilbride where I’d got to know a guy who had wangled a part time job there. He was playing the LP on the shop’s stereo and was pretty underwhelmed by most of it.
This reaction wasn’t entirely unusual. Critics tended to dismiss the album as hurried and ill conceived but most of the music immediately transfixed me, London Girl, I Need You and, most particularly, Tonight at Noon,a song that sounded almost magical and poetic.* At a time when punk was near its peak – and the week that This is the Modern World came out, Never Mind the Bollocks was Britain’s bestselling album – I thought the words and music of Tonight at Noon were beautiful, not a word I would have used to describe any other record I’d remotely liked that year up until this point.
This is Tonight At Noon:
I kept asking for it to be played again and again as I didn’t have the money to buy it, most likely because most of my pocket money had just been used to buy a ticket for the upcoming Jam show at the Glasgow Apollo.
Finally a mention for a new Edinburgh act who’ll be supporting Paul Weller at his sold out Forest Live shows later this month. Produced by Richard Hawley and released last Monday on Neu! Reekie! Records, this is Forever More:
And to hear Paul speaking with Billy Sloan on Radio Clyde last Sunday night click HERE.
* The back cover of This Is The Modern World gave thanks to Liverpudlian poet and pop artist Adrian Henri ‘for foresight and inspiration’. Weller borrowed the title of a Henri poem (which Henri himself had borrowed from a Charlie Mingus track) for Tonight At Noon and also lifted lines such as ‘I will bring you night flowers / coloured like your eyes’ and ‘held for a moment among strangers / held for a moment among dripping trees’ straight from his poem In the Midnight Hour without giving him an actual writing credit.