Sunday, 3 June 2018

Paul Weller - Sonik Kicks (2012)

  

Released March 2012

Recorded at Black Barn Studios, Woking

A strangely addictive album, this. In many ways an improvement, certainly sound-wise, from the often tinny, overloud “Wake Up The Nation”. Here, the sound quality is much more pleasing on the ear, warmer, more bassy, less clashing and is the better for it.

It is pretty impossible categorise the music, actually, it is like nothing Weller had done previously, although there are some recognisable traits. The album begins with a short, sharp attack of the strange noises reminiscent of Krautrock band Neu! and odd lyrics of “Green”, the infuriatingly whistleable Britpop gone berserk of “The Attic” and the frantic guitar attack of “Kling I Klang” (whatever that means). Rather like on “Wild Wood”, there is an instrumental interlude in “Sleep Of The Serene” before we get a more typical, laid-back, bucolic acoustic Weller number in “By The Waters”. It could almost be a Style Council song too.

“That Dangerous Age” is a return to the furious, upbeat 2012 pop of the first three songs. Almost like some of the vocal material on David Bowie’s “Low" or “Heroes”. In many ways, though, in its experimental feel, this album is Weller’s “Station To Station”. The standout track, in my view, is the mesmerising seven minute “jazz-reggae” of “Study In Blue”, with Weller sharing vocals with his wife Hannah. Half way through you get a dub-style interlude, complete with mega-heavy bass, melodica, tape loop sound effects and scratching sounds. Add to this some trademark Weller lyrics about gardens, bees, tulips and white cats. Even with The Jam, he liked a bit of this (“Tales From The Riverbank”). “Dragonfly” is equally impressive, with its rumbling bass and keyboard intro, catchy melody and Weller’s soulful, dreamy vocal. At this point, the album seems to just get better and better. 

“When Your Garden’s Overgrown” continues the enjoyment, a sort of Kinks-type song for the 21st Century, great lyrics but also packed with strange electronic sounds. “Around The Lake” sees Weller assisted by Noel Gallagher and it is Oasis-like in its brash, loud guitar assault. It is this album’s “Echoes Round The Sun” from “22 Dreams”, which also featured Gallagher. It morphs into the almost 60s Beatles-ish psychedelic sound of the swirling, dense “Drifters” via the short sound effects of “Twilight”. “Paperchase” is an odd, brooding, insistent, bass-driven mournful song that again defies categorisation. Finally, Weller delves into mainstream soul with a rather sickly song for his kids, “Be Happy Children” that sees him adopting a Marvin Gaye singing style, of a sort. A perplexing end to a perplexing but stimulating album.

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