My Ever Changing Moods: A Retrospective of Paul Weller
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No members of the original British punk generation have had as distinguished and full a career as Paul Weller. Spanning forty years and three distinct stages, regardless of whether a member of a band or solo, all the music that has borne his name has been marked by the soul and R&B influences that have motivated his creativity. He’s had limited and brief flourishes of success and recognition internationally, but in England he is a revered member of the creative class, recognized unlike few others as a lasting chronicler of British culture. So if you’re a punk and rock fan you’ll love the early stage and many selections throughout, and if you like lighter fare then you’ll enjoy the middle part of this playlist. It is evidence of Weller’s varied style that he could both appeal and alienate core elements of his audience – likely a reason he’s never cracked through as a top-selling artist.
The Playlist - song \ album (year)
In the City \ In the City (1977)
Away from the Numbers \ In the City (1977)
The Modern World \ This is the Modern World (1977)
Down in the Tube Station at Midnight \ All Mod Cons (1978)
The Eton Rifles \ Setting Sons (1979)
Going Underground \ non-album single (1980)
Start! \ Sound Affects (1980)
That's Entertainment \ Sound Affects (1980)
Funeral Pyre \ non-album single (1981)
Absolute Beginners \ non-album single (1981)
Precious \ The Gift (1982)
Just Who Is the Five O'Clock Hero? \ The Gift (1982)
Town Called Malice \ The Gift (1982)
Beat Surrender \ non-album single (1982)
The Style Council
Speak Like a Child \ non-album single / Introducing the Style Council (1983)
Long Hot Summer \ non-album single / Introducing the Style Council (1983)
A Solid Bond in Your Heart \ non-album single/Introducing the Style Council (1983)
My Ever Changing Moods \ Café Bleu/My Ever Changing Moods (1984)
You're the Best Thing \ Café Bleu/My Ever Changing Moods (1984)
Headstart for Happiness \ Café Bleu/My Ever Changing Moods (1984)
Shout to the Top! \ non-album single/Internationalists (1984)
Come to Milton Keynes \ Our Favourite Shop/Internationalists (1985)
Walls Come Tumbling Down! \ Our Favourite Shop/Internationalists (1985)
It Didn't Matter \ The Cost of Loving (1987)
Heavens Above \ The Cost of Loving (1987)
It's A Very Deep Sea \ Confessions of a Pop Group (1988)
Life at a Top People's Health Farm \ Confessions of a Pop Group (1988)
How She Threw it All Away \ Confessions of a Pop Group (1988)
Uh Huh Oh Yeah! (Always There to Fool You) \ Paul Weller (1992)
You Do Something to Me \ Stanley Road (1995)
Peacock Suit \ Heavy Soul (1997)
Brand New Start \ Modern Classics (1998)
Going Places \ Illumination (2002)
Thinking of You \ Studio 150 (2004)
Blink and You'll Miss It \ As Is Now (2005)
Empty Ring (not on Google Play or Spotify) \ 22 Dreams (2008)
No Tears to Cry \ Wake Up the Nation (2010)
The Attic \ Sonik Kicks (2012)
Brand New Toy \ More Modern Classics (2014)
I'm Where I Should Be \ Saturn’s Pattern (2015)
One Tear \ A Kind Revolution (2017)
The Soul Searchers \ True Meanings (2018)
Paul Weller was born as John William Weller in 1958. Oddly enough his parents would refer to him as Paul and that is how he would be known thereafter. He was born to working class parents in Woking, Surrey, a suburb to the southwest of London. Like many youths in England, he grew up under the spell of the British Invasion bands like The Beatles and The Who, translating American blues and soul into a distinct British style that featured more tempo, energy and attitude. By his teens he was so enamoured with this music that he formed his own band at the age of fourteen.
The band was formed among Weller’s classmates at his high school in Woking in 1972. Paul played bass and sang, playing covers of Motown classics and Beatles songs at local clubs, with the gigs arranged by his father. After a line-up change or two, the band settled into a trio with Paul switching to guitar along with drummer Rick Buckler and bassist Bruce Foxton. I’m not sure why they chose the name ‘The Jam’ but it appears to have been their name from the early days.
In the City; Away from the Numbers \ In the City \ The Jam (1977)
1977 was a seminal year in music history, and The Jam’s contribution was thick in the mix. The band’s debut album, with Weller only 19 years-old, had all the urgency, energy, and attitude of the first-generation punk music. However, what set The Jam apart from other bands making waves that year, such as The Sex Pistols, The Damned, or The Clash, was a more refined fashion sense influenced by Weller’s having become enamoured with bands like The Who and the mods of the 1960s.
Mods were one of many subcultures in England in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, named as a short form of ‘modernists’ due to their musical preference for modern jazz. Fashion was a big facet of their culture, featuring sharply tailored suits and skinny ties. They also rode around on highly decorated scooters (preferably Italian), usually featuring many mirrors, flags, and other accessories. Mods often clashed with Rockers, famously resulting in riots along seaside resort towns in 1964. After the peak of violence Mods settled down into a more purely fashion and music scene, shifting focus from jazz to rock bands such as The Who, The Kinks, and early Rolling Stones.
The Jam led a revival in Mod fashion, and therefore put forward a very different image with their suits and ties compared to the ripped and safety-pinned ensembles of their punk peers. However, where they fit in with punks was their political edge and aggressiveness, featuring strong guitar riffs built on classic R&B structures. Their first single, “In the City,” featured perspectives on the rising voice of English youth challenging authority: “In the city there's a thousand men in uniforms / And I've heard they now have the right to kill a man / We wanna say, we gonna tell ya / About the young idea.” The ensuing album of the same name contained more songs decrying the state of England, however was mixed with some elements of hope for a return to English glory rather than the pure disdain seen from the likes of The Sex Pistols. In this regard they were consistent with the views of their ‘60s influences such as The Kinks.
“Away from the Numbers” showed the consummate blend of power chords from Weller mixed with R&B melodies that was the hallmark of early Jam recordings. The band’s more accessible brand of punk gave them early attention and chart success in England, with “In the City” reaching the top 40.
The Modern World \ This is the Modern World \ The Jam (1977)
After strong success with their second single, “All Around the World,” the band quickly followed with their second album which continued with their aggressive sound, though more songs shifted to greater melody and lighter guitar than their debut. They continued to tip their hat to the Motown era with a cover of “In the Midnight Hour.” During this time Weller established himself over Foxton as the band’s primary song writer. While the album wasn’t as highly regarded as the first, “The Modern World” became an essential contribution of that year’s inaugural punk offerings.
Down the Tube Station at Midnight \ All Mod Cons \ The Jam (1978)
Foxton reasserted himself as a song writer with the success of an interim single before their next album, “News of the World.” He took the lead on writing the following album, but the band and label weren’t satisfied with the results. Weller returned to Woking and immersed himself in the Mod records of his youth. He returned with a batch of songs that would form the core of their third album, All Mod Cons (a property marketing phrase for ‘all modern conveniences), that was naturally more influenced by the ‘60s sounds given his creative process this time around.
“Down the Tube Station at Midnight” followed the double A-side single released prior to the album, “David Watts”/” ‘A’ Bomb in Wardour Street” and established The Jam as a more sophisticated and complete punk band than most others, given The Clash were yet to refine their sound (they released their second album, Give ‘Em Enough Rope, the same month as this Jam album). Much of this Jam album is comparable to the power pop sounds taking hold in the US underground scene. “Down the Tube Station…” was about a young man who was assaulted by a gang while in a deserted London Underground train station, reflecting on the ever-present violence in British youth, especially among the mods and their many competing groups such as the Teds, Rockers, and Punks.
The Eton Rifles \ Setting Sons \ The Jam (1979)
“The Eton Rifles” would be the highest charting song to date for the band, reaching #3 in England. It would also get the band their first attention Stateside, pulling their album onto the Billboard chart for the first time. They had toured the US as an opening act, but so far had not gained any attention. While this single definitely fit into the punk mold, much of the album played as more straightforward rock and power pop. The melodies continued to be catchy and featured Weller’s strong guitar riffs, but the swagger and aggression were more toned down. It was a harder album than the one prior, but the sound was less punky. However, the political content was still present, with “Eton Rifles” being about labour protest skirmishes with police.
Going Underground \ The Jam (1980)
The band had consistently issued singles between their albums and this continued into the new decade. “Going Underground” would be the breakthrough the band needed to elevate their stature from a respected but, ironically, more underground band. This song was supposed to be the B-side but a labelling error put it on the A-side and into the forefront – a fortuitous error. It would be the band’s first #1 song in England and increased their US exposure.
Start!; That’s Entertainment \ Sound Affects \ The Jam (1980)
The following album would be their most accessible and featured a change to more funky beats, with Weller citing both The Beatles’ Revolver and Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall as inspirations. Notable was the introduction of piano to their sound and the inclusion of a stripped-down acoustic song, “That’s Entertainment.” That song has become one of the band’s best known despite not being a hit single (it was an import in the UK due to being a European release only), likely due to later attention from covers by the likes of Billy Bragg and recognition from American publications such as Rolling Stone. “Start!,” modelled off The Beatles’ song “Taxman,” would be the band’s second #1 single.
Funeral Pyre; Absolute Beginners \ The Jam (1981)
Two non-album singles naturally came out before the next album. The Jam continued to evolve their sound, with “Funeral Pyre” blending the funky, drum-driven sounds of the previous album. “Absolute Beginners” dove into a soul sound featuring horns. The band’s punk energy, now wonderfully blended with their R&B roots and expanding instrumentation, made for more complete and engaging songs. While not fitting in with New Wave and other post-punk sounds of the early ‘80s (though could be grouped with the likes of Joe Jackson), the band was holding their own with their unique sound. Indeed, by then other than The Clash most other early punk bands were gone or moving in other directions consistent with the new era.
Precious; Just Who is the Five O’Clock Hero?; Town Called Malice \ The Gift \ The Jam (1982)
The band’s next album would be their most polished and complete and rewarded them with a double A-side #1 with “Town Called Malice / “Precious” and their first #1 album in the UK. Fans of the band’s original punk sound would likely have found this album off-putting musically, though the punk spirited political messaging was still present in songs such as “Just Who is the Five O’Clock Hero?” (released only as a single in the Netherlands though, similar to the success of “That’s Entertainment” it achieved a #8 spot on the UK charts as an import). The album was strong on R&B and soul, “Town Called Malice” drew openly from The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love,” and resulted in one of the band’s (and Weller’s) most iconic songs. “Precious” blended horns with calypso-like guitar and drums showing the band’s increasing versatility.
Beat Surrender \ The Jam (1982)
As the band was about to embark on a UK tour, Weller surprised everyone with the announcement that he was disbanding The Jam. The decision was his alone and the timing was odd given they were at the peak of their musical and commercial success. It seems that was part of his reasoning, as he didn’t like the prospects of being locked into this enterprise which was becoming a juggernaut. So after a short tour the band played their last show together on December 11, 1982, ten years after they formed and just five years since releasing their first single. However just prior they released their final single, “Beat Surrender,” which would deliver them their fourth #1 single. Another R&B styled, horn-filled single, it would include singer Tracie Young, giving the band an even more soulful sound.
The stature and influence of The Jam cannot be underestimated. They are one of the giants of the first generation of UK punk bands. They had their own sound that blended R&B and soul with the aggression of punk, and led a mod revival that juxtaposed their fashion sense and British pride against the anarchy and nihilism of their punk brethren. They had four hits and one album reach #1 and eighteen songs reach the top 40 (consecutively no less) – though it needs to be noted they never broke through in the US and only slightly in Commonwealth markets such as Australia and Canada. Along with The Clash they were the only punk band to stride confidently into the ‘80s by continuing to play the music that made their name. As we will see, much of this was all down to Paul Weller. The meaty guitar chords, distinctive vocals, and unique musical style were all borne from Weller and his inspirations. Bruce Foxton was a significant writing contributor, but there’s no question the melodies and signature sound of The Jam came from Weller.
Speak Like a Child; Long Hot Summer \ The Style Council (1983)
Weller wasted no time moving on from The Jam, partnering with keyboardist and song writer Mick Talbot in early 1983 to form The Style Council. Talbot had performed with several mod revival bands including Dexys Midnight Runners and shared a common musical outlook with Weller, who was looking to move away from the strictures of rock and punk and explore purer R&B and soul sounds.
Over the course of their first year they’d release four singles. “Speak Like a Child” would be the first, released quickly in March, and was very consistent with the last Jam album featuring horns and Tracie Young again on backing vocals. The differences from The Jam sound were the introduction of keyboards from Talbot and a lighter, jazzier sound that lost the guitar-laden strength of The Jam.
The second single would be a funk styled song, “Money-Go-Round,” which blended synths, light guitar, horns, and a punchy vocal from Weller. This was a more immediate departure from The Jam’s sound. Next, released in the dying days of summer, was a pure synth song in which Weller’s soulful vocals rode over an R&B rhythm and drum machine, delivering a laid-back ballad made for summer days. “Long Hot Summer” would reach #3 in the UK (and #41 in Canada) and show that Weller was going to have no problem reasserting himself in the British music soundscape with this new act and sound. The Jam’s punk fans probably hated this music, but it was au courant to the times and allowed Weller to explore new sounds, having almost abandoned his guitar in favour of Talbot’s keyboards. As the band also added new members Steve White on drums and Dee C. Lee on backing vocals (formerly of Wham!), these early singles and their B-sides would be gathered on an album for release overseas, Introducing The Style Council, which would be imported heavily back into the UK.
A Solid Bond in Your Heart \ The Style Council (1983)
My Ever Changing Moods; You’re the Best Thing; Headstart for Happiness \ Café Bleu/My Ever Changing Moods \ The Style Council (1984)
The first full-length album from The Style Council would come out the next year, prefaced with another single just before ’83 closed out, “A Solid Bond in Your Heart,” another R&B/soul song. Released in the UK as Café Bleu the album was a jazz and soul masterpiece. Joining with a jazz resurgence in pop during the mid-‘80s (think of Sade) the album blended sultry ballads and peppy songs that restored Weller’s guitar into the mix, though now as a light, refreshing accent to Talbot’s deep, melodic synth riffs. Tracy Thorn and Ben Watt from ‘Everything but the Girl’ were featured on “Paris Match” (released previously on Introducing The Style Council).
The first single from the album would be “My Ever Changing Moods,” a single that perfectly captured the band’s new sound. The keyboards were light here as guitar, bass, drum and horns carried the song through Weller’s impassioned vocals. It is simply a fantastic song that remains as fresh and invigorating today as the day it was released. I was fourteen when this came out and it jumped out of the radio for me, sounding like nothing else I was listening to and winning me over with its infectious grooves. I didn’t care much for jazz at that age but this song made me reconsider. Listening to it made me feel like a grown-up. The song is the pinnacle of an album that stands like a giant in the decade, sounding like no other yet fitting in with the progressive sounds of the era. Not just for me, it put The Style Council in the ears of many for the first time and even reinvigorated an interest in The Jam in North America. This single would reach #29 on the Billboard chart and remains Paul Weller’s most successful song to date outside of the UK (where it reached #5).
Building on this success, the US label would release the album under the single’s name, so American and Canadian buyers would forever know it as My Ever Changing Moods. This version dropped two songs from the UK version, added “A Solid Bond in Your Heart,” and happily opted for the extended version of the title track.
The other single issued from the album would be “You’re the Best Thing,” a song I personally used mercilessly on mixed tapes offered to prospective girlfriends (along with Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight”). A blues-jazz offering that showed Weller could deliver a romantic ballad quite nicely: “I could be a lot / But I know I'm not / I'm content just with the riches that you bring.”
“Headstart for Happiness” was not a single, but an album this rich needs to be explored more fully. It was a great example of the bouncier, more exuberant side of the album. Almost lounge-like in his delivery, the horns and jazzy drums, and Lee’s soulful vocals made the song undeniable. It harkened back to music like Blood, Sweat and Tears.
Shout to the Top! \ The Style Council (1984)
The band’s next single would be another jumpy, jazzy, horn-driven song that was made for dancing. It continued the sound established on their first album and brought the band more success, reaching the top ten in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Its success would lead to its inclusion in the soundtrack for the Madonna movie, Vision Quest, in early ’85 as well as on the band’s next album.
Come to Milton Keynes; Walls Come Tumbling Down! \ Our Favourite Shop/Internationalists \ The Style Council (1985)
As is so often the case when a band releases a landmark album, the next album struggles to match it yet still does better commercially thanks to the increased attention from the prior work. Case in point was The Style Council’s Our Favourite Shop, which reached #1 in the UK but was not nearly as good as the debut. It was a good album, and “Walls Come Tumbling Down!” was another energetic, fun romp that made you get out of your chair. The song was a critique on the Conservative government’s views towards the working class and a call to unify and bring them down – still several years before the Berlin Wall would come down, so the title’s reference was prescient.
The album was a little less jazzy, lacked the smooth and exquisite melodies of the prior album, and relied more heavily on keyboards to its detriment. It featured a ton of guest musicians and vocalists, including once again Tracie Young, and an entry with comedian Lenny Henry on an awful funk song, “The Stand Up Comic’s Instructions”.
Same as the first album, this LP would be released in North America under a different title, Internationalists, which removed two tracks (including thankfully “…Comic’s Instructions”) and added “Shout to the Top!” The album featured several singles in addition to “Walls Come Tumbling Down!”, including “Come to Milton Keynes” which referenced an ad for a city created to represent a new, modern concept in suburban living that was seen by many as fake and emblematic of all that was wrong with modern England. Weller still hadn’t lost his punk ethos.
It Didn’t Matter; Heavens Above \ The Cost of Loving \ The Style Council (1987)
1986 would be the first year Paul wouldn’t release any music since The Jam’s first release in 1977. The Style Council’s third album would be released in ’87 and would again fail to capture the magic of their debut. Sticking mostly with the synth sound, though more laid back and still with jazz colouring, the album rode on an unambitious and safe R&B and soul sound that Weller had settled into deep comfort. It lacked standout tracks, though “It Didn’t Matter” was a nice synth-ballad reminiscent of “Long Hot Summer,” though lacked the infectious groove of that first song. “Heavens Above” is the best representation of the jazz-pop sound the band had mastered.
It’s a Very Deep Sea; Life at a Top People’s Health Farm; How She Threw It All Away \ Confessions of a Pop Group \ The Style Council (1988)
The band rebounded and found their groove again on their fourth effort, Confessions of a Pop Group. Dee C. Lee joined full-time and was much more present throughout. The keyboards were piano rather than synths and there were horns aplenty. The album had the same jazzy feel as Café Bleu and “How She Threw It All Away” captured the same feel as “My Ever Changing Moods.” The album was split into two sides, with the first side being jazz and classical styles while the second was more of the funk and soul of their typical style and featured a great trio, with the upbeat songs “Life at a Top People’s Health Farm” and “How She Threw It All Away” bookending the soulful “Why I Went Missing.” Politics continued to play into the mix with “…Health Farm” being an anti-Thatcher song.
Amid increased tensions between Weller and the label, Polydor, in the face of declining sales, Polydor oddly didn’t promote this album and it peaked at #15 on the UK chart. When Weller, Talbot and the band went back into the studio and recorded an album influenced by house music (Modernism: A New Decade, which would be released ten years later as part of a retrospective package), the label rejected it. And with that, the band was done, deciding to pack it in rather than try to overcome the mounting obstacles in their way with Polydor. They (or their label?) would cap off their five-year run with a greatest hits album in 1989, The Singular Adventures of The Style Council, and a single, “Promised Land” (from the unreleased album).
Uh Huh Oh Yeah! (Always There to Fool You) \ Paul Weller \ Paul Weller (1992)
After a year off Weller quickly formed a new band, The Paul Weller Movement, in 1990. The name and the band wouldn’t last long as he would start cycling through players. Without a label or formal band it was a new situation for the experienced performer. After playing small venues for awhile Weller formed his own label, Freedom High, in order to release his first solo single, “Into Tomorrow,” in 1991. The single went to #36 on the UK chart and led to a signing with label, Go! Discs, and the recording of a full album in 1992. The next single was “Uh Huh Oh Yeah!” which rose to #18. It would seem Weller was once again not going to miss a beat, with his individual brand well established after his leading role in his two successful predecessor bands.
The album drew on some of the same jazz-pop sounds of The Style Council and abandoned some of the funkier and experimental aspects of the later albums. The result was a solid album of blues, soul, and jazz with strong, melody-driven songs. There was a return of guitar and much less keyboards, and the purer sound was a welcome change. The album would reach #8 in the UK, but as was always the case for the aging Mod, there would be no attention from overseas markets.
You Do Something to Me \ Stanley Road \ Paul Weller (1995)
The success of his first album encouraged Weller to get back into the studio quickly, producing an acclaimed second album, Wild Wood, in 1993 that would reach #2 on the UK Chart. Perhaps buoyed by this success Paul had the confidence to forego any further thoughts of establishing another band and has remained solo ever since. His output has been prolific, releasing fourteen albums over 26 years.
Stanley Road would be the third album and would feature two top ten singles, “The Changingman” and “You Do Something to Me.” Still drawing mostly on soul and blues with jazz touches, there was also an increasing use of guitar and rock-tinged accents to the music. It seemed like he was drawing together the elements of his entire career to produce very strong and listenable albums. “You Do Something to Me” was a stunning song, with a piano riff reminiscent of the band Traffic and songs like “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.” The album would reach #1 in the UK, the first of four of his solo albums to do so.
Peacock Suit \ Heavy Soul \ Paul Weller (1997)
The next album was a heavier, bluesier, more rock-oriented album and fans got to hear Weller sing aggressive and angry songs for the first time since leaving The Jam. “Peacock Suit” would become his highest charting single, reaching #5, and the album would get to #2 (it was actually the top seller its first week, but a promotion relegated it to a ‘special release’ and the sales weren’t counted). It was also the first album back on a major label, Island Records.
Brand New Start \ Paul Weller (1998)
It would be three years before Paul put out another album, but in the meantime released a collection of his solo singles, Modern Classics, that included this new single. “Brand New Start” was a great folk-rock song showing Weller moving effortlessly through various styles with mastery, elegance, and strong melodies. It should be noted that aside from being a great guitar player, Weller has a very strong and identifiable vocal style, and while rarely relying on his voice to carry songs it certainly adds a distinctive element to his music.
Going Places \ Illumination \ Paul Weller (2002)
The album, Heliocentric, was released in 2000 and was accompanied by a long tour and a live album. Rumours circulated that Weller was going to retire as he was once again adrift without a label. It’s odd that such a well-respected, veteran musician with a loyal audience has struggled to stick with a label. Although he only sells primarily in the UK you’d think his routine placement in the top of those charts would be acceptable for most labels. Perhaps he’s the reason, since I suspect he’s a bit individually minded and not likely to play along with labels’ often misguided ideas around what music should be made. Since Paul was only 44 at the time, the rumours of retirement seemed implausible.
Sure enough, a new album arrived in 2002, Illumination, on Independiente Records (the label formed by Andy Macdonald after he sold Go! Discs to PolyGram in 1996). Once again, it was a solid collection of songs, still being led by strong guitar work on both acoustic and electric. It was a rock album that would fit comfortably with albums from the early ‘70s. “Going Places” was a perfect example of the sound and another fantastic single, mixing acoustic guitar with light organ riding an impeccable melody.
Thinking of You \ Studio 150 \ Paul Weller (2004)
Studio 150, released on yet another label, was a collection of cover songs. “Thinking of You” was a Sister Sledge song originally issued as a B-side in 1979 but became a hit on its own for the funk act in 1984. Light sounding with strings and bongos, Weller’s take turned the funk-soul original into a folk-pop song. The album also included covers from Gordon Lightfoot, The Carpenters (Bacharach & David), Bob Dylan, and Neil Young.
Blink and You’ll Miss It \ As Is Now \ Paul Weller (2005)
As Is Now would be Weller’s eighth solo album and would stay in the rock/blues/folk style. “Blink and You’ll Miss It” featured a catchy guitar riff and had Weller rocking like his early days. This album would only reach #4, spoiling a run that could have been eight consecutive LPs to reach the top two on the UK Chart. However, with Studio 150 and As Is Now his albums would start to chart regularly around the world except in North America. It took awhile, but international audiences were catching on to his prolifically consistent career.
Empty Ring \ 22 Dreams \ Paul Weller (2008) – not on Spotify or Google Play Music
After accepting the Brit Awards’ Lifetime Achievement distinction in 2006, he followed with a double-album in 2008, 22 Dreams. Packed with guest appearances from members of Oasis, Stone Roses, Ocean Colour Scene, and Blur it’s like Weller was celebrating his Britishness with a coming together of their industry. It also influenced his sound as there was a marked Britpop sound to his music in the ensuring years (you can really hear it in, “The Attic”). The longer length of 22 dreams resulted in a little more variety than his recent releases. There would be six singles released from the album, though “Empty Ring” was not one of them but was a nice, R&B infused song laced with melodic strings and Weller’s jazzier guitar a la Style Council. The album would be his third to reach # 1 and first since Illumination.
No Tears to Cry \ Wake Up the Nation \ Paul Weller (2010)
The next album, his tenth solo release, was notable in that it included contributions from Bruce Foxton, marking the first time they’d worked together since the dissolution of The Jam. Getting with the times, the first single, “7&3 is the Strikers’ Name,” was released for download only. “No Tears to Cry” was a Phil Specter-like, Motown sounding song – Weller was definitely getting in touch with his Mod roots.
The Attic \ Sonik Kicks \ Paul Weller (2012)
Brand New Toy \ Paul Weller (2014)
I’m Where I Should Be \ Saturns Pattern \ Paul Weller (2015)
One Tear \ A Kind Revolution \ Paul Weller (2017)
The Soul Searchers \ True Meanings \ Paul Weller (2018)
The veteran songwriter has released four more albums over the past eight years as well as another collection of singles, More Modern Classics, with another new, feature single, “Brand New Toy.” His latest was issued this year and last year he toured North America, playing the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto. I skipped the show but now wish I’d gone – he played an astounding 31-song set list spanning his entire career. However, I did catch him in an abbreviated set (a mere eleven songs) at Riot Fest in 2014. The younger audience at this festival was less interested in older acts like Weller (though the festival also included the likes of The Buzzcocks, Bob Mould, and The Cure, which is why it drew me out), so it was easy to get a spot right up front. He played a great set including many off this playlist. As always, his music remains strong, varied, and worthy of a listen.
He continues to be revered in his native land – he received New Musical Express’s “Godlike Genius Award” in 2010 – while receiving limited attention and success internationally. He acknowledged in 2017 that, like many artists in the modern music industry, he has had to tour to make money, especially in lieu of a recent divorce that set him back financially. It’s a shame that an artist of his talent and stature shouldn’t be sitting pretty at this stage of his career, but perhaps it’s been his penchant for doing his own thing regardless the changing times. He is an old punk, after all.
Paul Weller has released 25 albums with The Jam, The Style Council, and as a solo artist over a recording career spanning over forty years. Amazingly, he has stayed true to his mod culture’s beloved soul and R&B roots, moving these sounds through punk, post-punk, jazz, pop, folk, and rock. A distinctive singer, song writer, and guitar player he has provided a wonderful collection of music to explore and discover – especially for those of us in North America who have had such limited exposure to him. He is one of a kind, an outspoken voice and chronicler of his country’s both celebratory and lamentable social and political cultures. He carries on as the supposed ‘modfather,’ still showing us how the old sounds can continually be renewed.