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Anyone familiar with British Music will know this man: Paul Weller. The name alone is steeped in the history of British music and culture. Paul Weller shot to fame in the late 70's British punk movement with his band The Jam, which included the very talented Bruce Foxton on bass and Rick Buckler on drums. The Jam had many hits including 'In the City', 'Eton Rifles', 'Going underground' and 'Town Called Malice'. Weller disbanded The Jam in 1982 and formed the 80's synth-pop band The Style Council which failed to generate any number 1 singles, but made the top 20 charts regularly. The Style Council disbanded in 1989 and Weller went onto a successful solo career, the pinnacle being 1995's 'Stanley Road', which is his best-selling album over course of his entire career.
Paul Weller: As Is Now
Steve Cradock: Lead Guitar/ vocals
Steve White: Drums
Damon Minchella: Bass Guitar
Paul Weller: Lead vocals/Rhythm Guitar/Piano
2005 has seen Paul Weller return once again with this new solo album, 'As Is Now', which peaked at #4 in Britain. It is an impressive return to form for Weller, with his strong song-craft, intricate guitar work and mature-yet-raw vocals showing through on this effort. Weller’s guitar and vocals really shine through on the album opener ‘Blink and you’ll miss it’, an impressive album opener; it showcases a rocky guitar with Weller’s raw, powerful voice, a perfect blues-rock opener with infectious lyrics. This is followed up by ‘Paper smile’, a stripped-down, acoustic song compared to the previous effort, Weller’s voice is really on show here because of the way he basically asks questions throughout the song, he delivers his lines with a brash, genuine attitude. ‘Come on/let’s go’ is a very Jam-esque tune, with a driving acoustic guitar, steady electric rhythm guitar and once-again, strong Weller vocals. This song conveys a sense of urgency in the way it is sung and played, and includes a trademark Weller solo, that has shades of 60’s British pop throughout. The next song, ‘Here’s the good news’ is a very Beatle’s style song, with a Lennon-esque piano intro, a horn section and steady drums, a very happy song that you can just bop along to, very nice and refreshing compared to the gritty opening assault this album hits the listener with. The album starts to slow down now with two slower, ballad-style songs, ‘The start of forever’ and ‘Pan’, the first being a very acoustic-based affair with horn section and light 60’s style drumming, the second being a piano-driven song with a backing chorus.
The second half of the album kicks off with ‘All on a misty morning’ and keeps the mood quite slow, but with more uplifting guitar and lyrics, and it sounds as if a banjo has been used for the main riff. If you’re in a more relaxed mood after these 3 songs, ‘From the floorboards up’ will come along and kick you in the face with its 60’s style rock’n’roll guitars and drums, and a Steve Cradock solo you just know would have inspired Noel Gallagher, a song that moves at a fast pace abruptly end with what sounds like teeth falling on the floor. ‘I wanna make it alright’ follows on in a style in vain of a 1960’s pop love song, another piano and acoustic guitar driven song, Weller’s voice shines through once again, (as it does on most of this album) as you can feel the emotion he sings with, it has a somewhat subtle quality. The bridges in this song remind me a lot of George Harrison’s ‘Something’ off of The Beatles’ classic ‘Abbey Road’, but these ones are more piano driven. An acoustic guitar kicks off the next song ‘Savages’ which I feel is probably the weakest track on here, it’s quite plain and it really lacks a bit of spark that all the previous songs have. ‘Fly little bird’ greets us with another acoustic guitar, with Weller’s trademark backward guitar parts swirling around the acoustic guitar, anyone who heard The Jam’s classic ‘That’s Entertainment’ knows what I’m on about. This quite soft, uplifting, acoustic driven song, quite possibly about freedom, is soon enough given a boost by a crunchy electric guitar and the entire band jumping in behind Paul’s chants of ‘FLYYYYYYY!’ In a very gospel fashion, this is quite an amazing song. Before you know it, this song has rolled straight into ‘Roll along summer’, In a Pink Floyd fashion. Yet another acoustic based song, it combines a very classy jazz drumbeat courtesy of Steve White and provides an easy-listening experience due to Weller’s breezy, laid-back vocals and saxophone solo; White really shines here with some very fluid beats.
The pace soon changes when ‘Bring back the funk (Pts1&2)’ bursts through the speakers, with its 70’s funk feel, including wah-wah guitar work, funky bass and yet again, classy drum patterns. Weller’s vocals are yet again raw, but also very soulful as he croons away in a style, in parts similar to James Brown. The horn section is again utilized to provide full effect to the overall feel of the song. The only downside to this song is, is that it is pretty long-winded, weighing in at 7:15, it could have easily been shortened to just the one part, although there are no stoppages or fade-outs to suggest that the song is in 2 parts. A soft piano leads us into the album closer ‘The pebble and the boy’. Weller really lets his vocal ability show here, as he pours all his heart and soul into what he is singing. The feel of the song is actually quite saddening, with the solitary piano and string section driving the song as Weller shows off his strong vocal ability. This is quite an interestingly sad end to the album.
There you have it, another triumphant return by Paul Weller. This record is easily his best since his ground-breaking solo effort, Stanley Road. It’s an album full of mixed emotions expressed by Paul Weller, which practically gives you a view on how he sees life, through the music he has written for this album. The album sways musically between swaggering, electrified rock stylings of ‘From the floorboards up’ and ‘Blink and you’ll miss it’ to the more quiet, soulful pieces such as ‘The start of forever’, ‘Pan’ and ‘The pebble and the boy’ . Weller opted for a more landscape feel for this album, and it is very acoustically and piano driven, with string and horn sections utilized for full effect. If you enjoy brilliantly diverse albums, As Is Now will not disappoint. 4.5/5