Paul Weller changes things up again to create another fantastic album
Paul Weller is a well-established musician and with 15 solo albums under his belt. He is a prime example of how to progress your sound perfectly over time. For over four decades now Weller has been making his mark on the music industry, from being the frontman of mod group The Jam at the age of 18, to teaming up with Mick Talbot to form the Style Council during the 80s, and then venturing into his solo career in 1991, it seems there’s no stopping him and his musical capabilities. On Sunset is the modfather’s most experimental album to date and it injects a fresh concoction of jazz, soul and r&b influences into its forty-eight-minute run time.
Opening up with the ambient seven-and-a-half-minute track ‘Mirror Ball’, it is clear from the get-go that Weller is not afraid to mix things up. The slow, atmospheric build-up keeps you on edge, wondering what kind of record the Changingman is going to serve up, but it is not long before the grooving guitars and snappy drum patterns kick in to create the soul-soaked sound that will have you dancing around your room. This upbeat section makes way momentarily for some avant-garde, wobbly synths before resuming the R&B influenced soulful sound created by a combination of a pulsating bassline and bright guitars.
The single ‘Village’ is one of my favourites on the album and is interesting due to its commercial pop feel, which is a side to Weller that hasn’t been seen for a while. Featuring former Style Council bandmate Mick Talbot, the dreamy bass-driven track is “a response to being told that we’ve all got to explore the Amazon and climb Everest to make our lives complete. And there’s a guy who says, fuck all that, I’ve got heaven around me”. ‘Village’ certainly resembles the soulful sound of the Style Council, but it still has an air of originality about it.
‘More’ is another highlight on the album that needs to be spoken about. It’s the second-longest track here but it uses its almost seven-minute run time to perfection. The production on this song is flawless and the Julie Gros feature adds an extra bit of French flavour. The use of various instruments comes in an abundance on this track with features from a flute, a saxophone solo and a string section, working together to create such a smooth sound that really compliments the tones of Weller’s voice. The long extended outro is a pleasure to listen to and the layers of built-up instrumentation keep it from dragging on.
Closing the album is the song ‘Rockets’ that has a very strong David Bowie feel to it. This acoustic, folk-leaning sound is reminiscent of Weller’s 1993 album Wild Wood but has a more ambient aura. This isn’t the only track on the album that can be compared to the work of Bowie, and in a way, this album can be seen as a homage to him as he too was an artist who progressed his sound album to album, and who wasn’t afraid to experiment musically. ‘Rockets’ is a great album closer as it encapsulates all of the charm and emotion that has featured throughout the record with a hint of psychedelic experimentation and ties all of the tracks together neatly.
Although this record is a bit further afield than the dadrock sound Weller is most known for, this rich combination of soul and jazz, with a sprinkle of folk here and there, makes On Sunset an album that needs to be heard. His ability to shift between genres so effortlessly makes this album a very smooth and easy listen and the melodies of each track are memorable in their own right. This is yet another great body of work from the modfather and it certainly hits a lot more than it misses.
On Sunset is available to listen to now via Polydor Records.