Paul Weller Offers Insight and Witness on “A Kind Revolution”

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Introducing Paul Weller

For fans of 1980s alternative pop, Paul Weller is known for his association with The Jam and The Style Council. The singer, guitarist and songwriter proved himself to be a keen witness of the world around him. The Jam was a punk/new wave band whose best-known hits, “That’s Entertainment” (1980) and “A Town Called Malice” (1982) are smart socio-political commentary. At turns smart and smooth,  The Style Council was cleverly artful and pop-ish, especially on tunes like “My Ever Changing Moods.” Weller keeps up the musical intrigue on his new album, “A Kind Revolution.”

A New World Turns

Music fans have seen the phenomenon of favorite performers from years past attempting to remain relevant in a decade (or century) in which they did not come to prominence. There are some artists who evolve successfully, and others who try too hard to illustrate that they have kept up with musical trends, and yet others who continue to do what they have always done. So, I had no expectations for this album. However, an album that hints at revolution must have at least a few new approaches in store. On this very full release of 29 songs — equaling more than two hours of music — Weller displays a few genius turns.

Nova

The interplay of guitar and keyboard reminds listeners of early Squeeze. The drums are a virtual metronome, and they sound as though they are playing in an empty space at two and a half minutes. The effect keeps the song from running flat. Weller’s vocals are rougher than expected, but as this is a song about sending a message through space, the vocals, the jaunty horns, and the atmospheric squelches make audiences think that some contraption is actually working to help the narrator send his message to a land far away.

The surprise on this album is that several of the songs get treated to a remix. Nova’s remix is called the “Toy Remix” and without vocals, the drums are lighter, the otherworldly synthesizer noises range from beeps and blips, in an almost airy sounding array. A bass guitar grounds all the instrumentation and reintroduces the rhythm listeners heard on the original (non-remixed version).

The vocals show up in phrases that sound like a haunting, and hand claps or percussive crashes are added that sound as though they could have been taken right out of the 1980s. This is progressive thought pop-rock at its best. Whether it is meant to be unraveled and completely understood remains a mystery, but there is a great deal of material to work with. The music is smart. Weller makes music that sounds as though he trusts his audience to get it. An artful turn if there ever was one.

Hopper

This song seems to be the future of art rock — literally. This is another track that is presented in an original form, and then again as a remix. With pensive vocals on the remix, Weller sings about what is given to audiences when they see Hopper’s work. The lyrics not only discuss color schemes, “muted” and “melancholy” as they may be, but they also discuss how the artist’s ghost lives in lonely bars, still pondering what people are doing when they stay out late.

The original version is an instrumental, a jangly fusion of strings, horn, and guitar with enthusiastic drums thrown in to keep things focused. In short, it sounds nothing like the original.

What is the Revolution According to Paul Weller?

Weller’s rebellion is in refusing to give listeners a tiny package of songs. He offers a heaving package of possibilities—this is especially noticeable because the remixed versions of songs are double the length of the original versions, and that the two versions sound completely different, as if the songs were almost completely re-thought.

Having come from a tradition of smart punk/pop-rock music for discerning audiences, Weller’s work here has evolved into the mindful alternative rock that both surprises and seems decidedly right.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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