Paul Weller: In Paul We Trust
Sunset The Jam during the commercial zenith, the total debacle of The Style Council, returning to the scene as a nostalgic rocker with recent albums as charmingly chaotic as the baskets from the flea market: Paul Weller has been doing what he wants for 40 years. Looking back you can understand that you can trust him. Although this is sometimes difficult.
My ever-changing mood
The last precedent was 8 years ago: Paul Weller just recorded a live album, “Catch-Flame!” First new songs, then the songs loved by the fans, solo hits and, finally, the powerful classics of the past: The Style Council songs “Shout To The Top”, “Long Hot Summer” and The Jam’s tracks “That’s Entertainment” and “Town Called Malice” . The 2007 Weller is the guarantor of an inspiring, furiously masculine rock show. His group dissolves in long instrumental passages. Fanaticism, showing not narcissism, but self-forgetfulness. The concert is very lengthy and at that time almost 50-year-old musician was losing energy by the end of the show. He could continue to do this forever: Paul Weller in an endless victory circle. Like Dylan and Young.
But then it’s all over again: the musician plugs the plug into the socket and starts the mechanism again. A new album “22 Dreams” is released: a double album with rather dreamy sounds rather than songs. Paul instantly becomes definitely closer to the British eccentric Robert Wyatt than to his favorite Small Faces. Fans and critics were initially bewildered and a little bewildered, but after a brief phase of confusion, they summarized that Weller had managed to regain his rightful property by pulling on old rocker clothes that were crazy for him. How he does it? And why? Let’s take a look back.
Tackle The Jam
When Paul dissolved The Jam, he was 24 years old, and the project was one of the most famous teams in the United Kingdom. A group from the city of Woking, a few miles southwest of London, succeeded in something that The Clash ultimately could not cope with: reconciling punk with pop music – without unnecessary turmoil and class struggle.
The Jam wrote hits without scattering into discussions about whether they owe success in the charts to their moral character. To think solely from a non-profit point of view, The Jam is not enough punks. The group is fierce, no doubt. But not in a childishly reckless way. The Jam even has a stylish rage. They are fashion (the British subculture of the 50-60s – approx. Ed.) And their vanity is satisfied during the first wave of the 60s already that their style and songs are revered by the public. Maud rejoices in understanding the facts of the life of an average guy: he can’t dance, has a beer belly and sooner or later his hair will fall out. In short: mod songs for everyone. But aesthetics behind them is an elitist affair.
The short life of The Jam went practically without a hitch. Both first albums, “In The City” and “This Is The Modern World”, were released in 1977; so far without hits, but LP are full of thirst for life and youthful energy. Powerful albums have been released since 1978: “All Mod Cons” (1978), “Setting Sons” (1979) and “Sound Affects” (1980) dissect the political, social and cultural life of Great Britain. At the same time, the observant wise man Paul Weller played a role that is akin to the modern YouTube browser LeFloid: he talks about his country, decides which of this is related to his life, and then talks about it. Weller’s channel is The Jam, and his media are three-minute pop songs: spicy, jubilant, vile and often infected with soul.
In 1982, The Jam was more popular than ever. The Gift album is selling well, the single Town Called Malice turned out to be a good move: it musically refers to the diamonds of the northern souls of the 60s, but it doesn’t sound like the musician experienced clinical death, as in the case of Phil Collins, but with energy and the cool ease inherent in the soul of yesteryear. This could have continued, but by that time, Weller’s thinking had changed. The trio format strangled him. Guitar, bass, drums – great, the formula works, but now he must destroy it, because the world is getting bigger. Weller feels trapped in his own group. He turns his attention to Detroit and Chicago, where soul quantities like Marvin Gay or Curtis Mayfield continue to move forward, whether they are successful or not. One must be especially careful when things are going well. There is hardly a football coach whose work or methods are called into question if his team wins over and over again. Paul Weller has a different opinion. He understands early that in this format it is no longer possible to develop. Something needs to be changed. The fact that he is ahead of the development of his fans and critics can be attributed to the pioneer: early comers have to make excuses.
And yet, Weller in 1982 set the stage for a smooth transition. With the last two singles of The Jam, he shows a change of orientation. “The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had to Swallow)” is a terrific soul pop; “Beat Surrender” can still be considered an exemplary single.