Paul Weller: Sonik Kicks (Island)

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Paul Weller: Drifters
Paul Weller: Sonik Kicks (Island)

Aside from the excellent set list, when Paul Weller played the Powerstation in late 2010 what was so impressive and exciting was his impassioned delivery. You were left with the clear impression he was on that stage because he just had to sing those songs.

That kind of visible, clenched-teeth commitment is rare -- and, if I'm honest, almost non-existent from so many New Zealand bands -- and the first three songs on this new album from the 53-year old (the brittle Green, furious Attic and angry sounding stomp of Kling I Klang) must be something to see live. He delivers like his life depends on it, and the scattergun guitar and vocal effects stabbing in and out make for a breathless start to this, the 11th album under his own name.

That said, over the full 14 songs -- in a taut 45 minutes -- the "experimental" aspects (the bleeping, gloopy electronics and strings of the instrumental Sleep of the Serene; the woosh and psychedelics of Dragonfly, the electronic fizz of When Your Garden's Overgrown, and Twlight which is a 23 second electro-twiddle dignified by a name) sometimes cover a paucity of ideas.

Enjoyable though the daily-grind of the poppy That Dangerous Age is, it doesn't add up to much and targeting the middle-aged suburbanite has become rather an easy shot. It's worth speculating that a younger Weller might have stripped this of the effects and delivered it as a more sympathetic and effective ballad. Or with brutal acerbic power.

You get the sense that in not wishing to slide into complacency or the familiar, Weller here is tweaking the edges for effect and impact. Sometimes these songs don't need or deserve it. 

There are lovely ballads here (By the Water, Study in Blue will appeal to those who thought Style Council were cruelly misunderstood) but few add much to what we have already heard from this source previously, and perhaps better on albums like Wild Wood and 22 Dreams.

Yes, there is some fine fury here -- the electro-rock of Around the Lake -- but for urgency his previous album Wake Up the Nation was hands down better and more consistent.

In fact, a consistency of tone is what is absent here. An album of full throated psychedelic wig-out like Drifters or the dreamy Paper Chase might have been too much, but they are just facets of Weller refracted onto an album which fires out sparks and light at times, but not often enough in any particular direction.

Good that he's not sinking into complacency, but myriad styles do not make for a satisfying album this time out.

There is more about Paul Weller's long career starting here.

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Ant - Apr 23, 2012

Great review, I'm looking forward to getting this album. He was in fine form the night I saw him at the Powerstation. You know he means it when he's performing, he gives it everything.
It would have been easy for him to rest on his laurels but I love the fact that he's still a fan of music and still searching for something new.
Enjoy your holiday Graham.

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