One of the most recognisable figures in British music over the last forty years, Paul Weller, this month released his thirteenth solo album, following a successful career with The Jam and Style Council. Remarkably, A Kind Revolution is the veteran’s second album of 2017, following the composition of the soundtrack to British boxing film Jawbone. Perhaps Weller could teach some of today’s prima donna rock stars a lesson about quietly getting on with one’s business and churning out regular music (we’re looking at you Liam Gallagher). The singer known as the Modfather is renowned for the political content of his catalogue. Each of his musical outfits have dabbled in socialist ideals, also a key component of his personal life. However, A Kind Revolution appears to show a mellow version of Weller, perhaps demonstrating the age-old adage about socialist tendencies waning with age. Instead, the album depicts a man who is enamoured with music itself. The release of a 3-disc album, with 11 songs, 10 instrumental versions and 8 remixes, indicates that Weller has no time for gimmicks. Instead he is focused on the music itself (again, take note Liam) – although a recent cameo on Sherlock was a surprise treat for fans, indicating the singer’s enduring prominence in popular culture.
On to the album, its opening song, Woo Se Mama, is a classy blues song featuring vocals from P.P. Arnold. Keyboard melodies, distinctive drum beats and guitar solos vie for centre stage, although all are overshadowed by Weller’s powerful voice. It is an energetic start filled with falsetto-inflected choruses. Next up is Nova, one of two songs to be released as a single in advance of the album. The tone changes here, with a minor key and a slower, lower introduction providing a patient build up. Again, a bluesy tone is evident in the song’s choruses; it appears Weller is paying tribute to the influences that shaped the genre he has belonged to for so long. However, the third song, Long Long Road, marks a departure from such clear belonging to rock music. It introduces strings and a focus on the piano, and Weller takes on a more reflective tone of voice. This is indicative of the album’s variety, refusing to be tied down to a single sound and defying expectation with each new song. One would expect an album containing the ballad-sounding Hopper and the misleadingly jaunty One Tear, featuring vocals from Boy George, to be a disjointed listening experience. However, this is not the case, with Weller tying the album together in a way we should be accustomed to after a total of 24 previous attempts with the various outfits to which he has belonged.
Another highlight of the album is New York, a song derivative of soul reflecting upon the city in which Weller met his wife. Again, keyboards are featured heavily, this time sounding suspiciously like an organ playing, while Weller’s voice once again claims centre stage. While the yearning for “another drink” may be concerning to fans who worry about the health of the self-proclaimed alcoholic, clean now for five years, Weller dismisses this as part of a nostalgic memory of meeting his wife at a bar. The personal tone is welcome, showing that the 59-year-old is unafraid of emerging from behind his political persona.
Overall, Weller’s album is a delight to listen to. The way it has been composed and tied together belies the longevity of Weller’s career, indicating that rather than grow repetitive the Modfather has retained his ability to surprise. That Madeleine Bell, Robert Wyatt, Boy George and P.P. Arnold feature on the album demonstrates Weller’s reputation within the music scene, while the fact that acoustic versions of each song are included shows a very talented musician. Judging by his recent form, we should expect another album fairly soon, to which I will be looking forward if it is anything like this one.
Picks: Woo Se Mama, Satellite Kid, New York