Paul Weller – Sonik Kicks
At 53 years of age, Paul Weller has absolutely nothing left to prove – he’s scaled the charts countless times with the Jam, Style Council and his solo work, been declared “Godlike Genius” by fans and critics alike, turned down a CBE, and is currently undergoing an unlikely late-career renaissance with his new album set to hit No. 1, following hot on the heels of 2010’s Mercury Prize-nominated Wake Up The Nation.
Sonik Kicks’ title hints at a broad palette of influences and genres (although a more cynical explanation might be that he simply removed the factually incorrect terms from Sonic Youth and Teenage Kicks), and indeed the fourteen tracks here adopt the “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach of 2008’s much-lauded double album 22 Dreams. So we get psychedelic Krautrock mayhem on opener Green, which boasts a spoken-word section worthy of Bowie himself; a lovely, John Martyn-esque pastoral ballad in By the Waters; and a nightmarish, discordant clatter of strings and sound effects on Sleep of the Serene.
If that sounds like the desperate flails of a burnt-out rocker undergoing a midlife crisis, think again. It seems Weller has thrown off the shackles of his archaic “Modfather” status and is having fun harnessing the experimentation that outraged and charmed in equal measure during his stint in Style Council. He can still pen a catchy tune to boot – When Your Garden’s Overgrown is a harmony-drenched tribute to the late Syd Barrett, and first single That Dangerous Age is a sharp call-and-response head-banger in which he slyly pokes fun at his advanced years, coming across as effortlessly cool in the process.
It’s not all cutting-edge sonic wizardry – Study In Blue is an anomaly for such a concise record, an endless cod-reggae jam that goes on for twice as long as it perhaps should, while syrupy closer Children Be Happy sees Weller uncharacteristically lapse into the muzak that has blighted the latter careers of McCartney and the like. However, these rare missteps only serve to underline the vitality of the surrounding songs: although it has become second nature to commend Weller simply on the basis of his refusal to go down the nostalgia route with the Jam, his solo work has definitely gone from strength to strength, and the praise that this album will be sure to garner is richly deserved.
Watch That Dangerous Age live on Jonathan Ross here