Paul Weller

TrackAlbum
Uh Huh Oh YehPaul Weller
SunflowerWild Wood
Can You Heal Us (Holy Man)Wild Wood
Porcelain GodsStanley Road
Out Of The SinkingStanley Road
I Should Have Been There
To Inspire You
Heavy Soul
It’'s Written In The StarsIllumination
The LovedFly On The Wall: B Sides & Rarities
Echoes Round The Sun22 Dreams
Speak Like A ChildWeller at the BBC

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Contributor: Glenn Smith

The 21st century has been kind to Paul Weller. Lauded as the Modfather, showered with awards such as Godlike Genius (2010 Mercury Music Prize) it is easy to forget that not much more than 20 years ago he had neither a band nor a record contract, as perfect a set of circumstances for an artistic comeback that anyone can imagine. And in shoving both The Jam and The Style Council behind him, he emerged in the early nineties with a new direction which was (surprise, surprise) to go back to his roots. As he sang in the first song on his first solo album, and the tune which kicks off our list (Uh Huh Oh Yeh, Paul Weller 1992), “And in my mind I saw the place … the very roots upon which I stand”. And those roots were Steve Marriott, Stevie Winwood, northern soul and rhythm and blues. Importantly, he got his guitar out and started to write tunes based on his prodigious ability to churn out powerful riff driven thumpers, balanced with his piano based balladeering.

If you experience only one Weller song in your musical lifetime make sure it’s Sunflower (Wild Wood 1993). This is his Tin Soldier, a drumming powerhouse, riff driven paean to someone he misses, and misses bad. His best Marriott shouter, it is urged along by a great ensemble performance, in particular Steve Cradock (guitar) and Steve White (drums). The next track on the album, Can You Heal Us (Holy Man), sees him shift to the piano with Cradock playing the power chords in unison.

1995 ushers in his finest moment since The Jam’s Sound Effects, the dazzling Stanley Road. The lazy approach to an appraisal of solo Weller is just to say it’s all there, listen to that. So the highlights within the bright lights are two tunes that encompass his song writing and performance. Out Of The Sinking showcases his full vocal range, subtle moody intro, then as the riff builds so too does his vocal, simply superb. Porcelain Gods is a reflection on the failure of the artist; this is the fragility of the contract-less pop star confronting his artistic nadir. The twisty riff that flows throughout adds to the tension, the song has an eerie spooky feel as Weller works through his disappointment with the whole deal.

I Should Have Been There … (Heavy Soul 1997) is a classic Weller piano ballad. There are other more famous examples, but this one wins out for heartfelt passion, perfect whole note bass and a rousing chorus. It’s Written In The Stars (Illumination 2002) is driven by a cool horn sample, courtesy of one of his long time collaborators, Simon Dine. It is a supermild groove which builds and builds.

Paul Weller has always had a love for the quiet guitar-based love song, going back to the hidden gem English Rose on All Mod Cons. The Loved is lifted from his rarities collection (Fly On The Wall 2003), it was a B-side classic to one his earlier singles, Hung Up, and it’s a great solo vocal performance with a beautiful lyric.

Echoes Round The Sun comes from his sprawling double album epic, 22 Dreams (2008). Written with Noel Gallagher, Echoes is as psychedelic as you can get without the acid, a swirling kaleidoscopic bad dream brought to life, conjuring up memories of No.9 Dream. And we finish where he began with a R&B cover of his Style Council classic Speak Like A Child (Weller at the BBC 2008). If you were suspicious that you’d heard something like Speak before, he confirms it with this Small Faces arrangement which shows its chords and structure to be that of Itchycoo Park. He even acknowledges that by singing “it’s all too beautiful” in the chorus. It is indeed Modfather, and we are so terribly glad for it.

The official Paul Weller website

Toppermost #414 – The Jam

Toppermost #474 – The Style Council

Paul Weller biography (iTunes)

Glenn Smith lives in Sydney and teaches high school English, plays very bad guitar with his bass playing son and spends far too much time thinking about The Beatles …

TopperPost #227

4 Comments

  1. David Lewis
    Mar 19, 2014

    One of the great songwriters of his generation – more focussed than Costello; more acerbic than Sting; more cynical than Springsteen; rockier than Joe Jackson. His solo work has largely passed me by, but the few I know on this list are terrific. Great stuff.

  2. Andrew Shields
    Mar 19, 2014

    Great list on a fine songwriter, although I would have to say that for me his really great work was done with The Jam… Might have included ‘Wild Wood’ itself here, which is both an excellent song and also reflects Weller’s growing interest in the great English folk influenced songwriters like John Martyn and Nick Drake. ‘Has My Fire Really Gone Out?’ also worked brilliantly live…

    • Glenn Smith
      Mar 20, 2014

      Ah Andrew, Wildwood, I know, I know. It hovered on the fringes the whole time as I narrowed it down to 10, but it just missed out due to what the other two tracks from that album represent. Has My Fire, You Do Something Too Me, All I Wanna Do were also in there swinging, and I agree with your point about Has My Fire live. Doing this list sent me back to listening to The Jam, especially All Mod Cons and Sound Effects. I think we are too close to the Style Council still to be completely objective, but the first few singles and the first two albums would be worth a close examination.

  3. Rob Millis
    Mar 23, 2014

    I have a strong bond with the entire Wildwood period; it was released around the time of my 19th birthday and I distinctly remember going out and buying both the vinyl of it (before The Changingman was added to it!) and a fine air-force blue overcoat from an army surplus store.
    As well as this connection, my old pal Dave Liddle was Weller’s guitar tech then; I knew him via his guitar shop under the arches of Kew bridge. Sadly cancer took Dave from us and such was the circumstance (funeral) that I finally met Paul Weller.

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