Paul Weller - Empty Ring
I was too young to have been into The Jam but I was old enough to know that I didn't really like The Style Council so it was Paul Weller's solo work that initially caught my attention. The first two albums anyway. Then it all went a bit dad-rock and he kind of fell off the map for me. The last thing anyone was expecting was his latest album, an eclectic, creative and dare we say it, exciting opus with over 2o tracks.
The title track is a stomping number with blasting horns and bags of energy, not what one might expect from a man who recently turned 50. It's a good example of the vigour of proceedings which makes this album so impressive. Push It Along is another track bursting at the seams with organs and 'ooh-ah' backing vocals which sound like King Louis' cohorts from the Jungle Book have invaded the studio. Which isn't to say that there isn't plenty of what you might expect from the man they call the Modfather but it's all augmented by some interesting musical choices and the kind of wilful disregard for what people think which can produce really exciting results.
It's not always successful; Lullaby Fur Kinder sounds worryingly like hotel lobby music, the spoken piece God is a bit like being harassed by one of those evangelists on the tube and the instrumental (if that's the word for it) 111 is a little indulgent, but these are small prices to pay to get an album that includes influences from South American tango to English folk.
Sometimes it all comes together. Empty Ring sounds like Weller is being accompanied by The Avalanches whose cut-up all-sample Since I Left You was such an amazing album. Black River has a cheeky-chappy appeal. And Echoes Round The Sun is a reverb heavy number with film score strings that lend it bite rather than making it sound pretty. But there are equally impressive songs like Invisible and Why Walk When You Can Run which, with simple accompaniment, hit the right note by leaving Weller's matured voice to do the work.
I didn't think I'd find myself buying another Paul Weller album but if you've ever had a liking for his work I suggest you do just that. There's life in the old Mod yet.