Graham Reid | | 3 min read
It may have been “fake views”, but internet gossip said when Paul McCartney recently collaborated with Kanye West, some of Kanye's fans on-line asked who that other guy was. And to big-up their man for helping the Old Fellah's career.
Teenagers – especially if their interest is in another genre – are allowed not to know what someone has done before their lifetime.
The Style Council broke up in 89. That's perilously close to 30 years ago.
So why would any young person know about him/them? Or care?
Most wouldn't give a damn about grey-hair-Weller: He's just a man respected by his peers and fans like Noel Gallagher from Oasis. (FYI kids, Oasis were a British band big in the 90s.).
But Weller always had something interesting to say so, with his new album A Kind Revolution let's just focus on his last decade . . . and the happy coincidence that 10 years ago there was the deluxe reissue of his excellent second solo album Wild Wood which originally came out in 93.
Wild Wood found Weller retreating from the frontline after the Jam/Style Council mania/expectation and he quite literally heading into the country to reconsider his life.
So across that album he posed questions (“Has my fire gone out?”) but also tapped into musical styles he'd previously explored in bristling Kinks-like 60s rock, thoughtful soul, pastoral reflection (the title track) but also delivering many songs with his accumulated firepower of soul-funk and post-punk guitars.
The expanded edition a decade ago reminded many just how exceptional the original album had been, pitched somewhere between the Beatles' Rubber Soul/Revolver in its diversity and honesty (without a Yellow Submarine or Tomorrow Never Knows). It was personal and important, and cleared the decks for him.
Thereafter followed terrific Weller albums (notable Stanley Road in 95 and Heavy Soul two years later) but his last decade kicked in with the ambitious 22 Dreams, his ninth solo album.
Shortly after 22 Dreams came out I spoke to Auckland Uni songwriting students about a contemporary artist whose work was worth paying attention to. You can guess who I chose. Only a few had heard his name so I presented 22 Dreams asking who else could offer soul, rock'n'roll, folk, psychedelic rock, a classical piece, some jazz-influenced stuff and a spoken word piece called God?
And pull it off?
A: No one.
By then Weller was also challenging his loyal older audience. There'd always be pop songs and pop-rock hits — most often with an angry edge — but he didn't make life easy for old fans.
And why should he? In his 40s, he'd done the hard work and knew what he knew. No turning back.
That's why he entered the 21st century as an accomplished, wide-view artist who'd grown up in the post-punk Thatcher Britain for whom politics and social comment were just part of the job description. When Paul was pissed off, you knew it. He put into his angry songs.
And when Paul glimpsed contentment you got that too.
Postcards from his edge.
But with Wake Up the Nation in 2010 he entered the second decade of the new century ticking past his 50th birthday with an album – nominated for a Mercury Prize, losing to The xx – unleashing an exceptional if sometimes unfocused album bristling with aural fury and a personal connection with contemporary Britain in way few others of that period did.
Since then he's never resiled from confrontational rock, soul, psyched-out Brit-rock, reflective folk-pop and . . .
No, you'd be unwise to think of Paul Weller as that Old Fellah.
In the expanded edition of his last album Saturns Pattern there's a handwritten note from him reading: "Like any roller-coaster, I've gone up and down through the years. It keeps it interesting . . ."
And it does.
Pull down the safety bar, hold the rail and hang on. Paul Weller has got a ride for you.
As the title of a song on Wake Up the Nation said, “Up the Dosage”