Kicks, out next week on Yep Roc, reaffirms the Modfather’s primacy.
By Lee Zimmerman
Whew… A person can become breathless trying to keep up with
Paul Weller’s chameleon-like persona. It was 35 years ago that he first made
his debut with the Jam, a throwback to the halcyon days of the Who, the Kinks,
the Small Faces and other iconic Brit pop standard-bearers of the mid to late ‘60s.
After that, the so-called “Modfather” switched direction and went all jazzy and
cabaret with the Style Council, which culminated in his decision to go solo
some twenty years ago.
Since then, Weller’s demonstrated a restless ambition that’s
defied any notion of him as an archetypical throwback to an earlier era, as
he’s abandoned the retro references and ventured instead into the bold new
world of techno, funk and abstract ambiance. This of course is nothing new;
over the past decade Weller’s made freeform exploration and hints of world
rhythms standard additives on each of his recent albums. His public seems to
approve; gold record awards and all manner of prestigious plaques have likely
taken over his mantle place.
Kicks may prove his most intriguing effort yet, an album awash in
psychedelic suggestion, cosmic noodling and swooping, soaring performances
driven by fresh enthusiasm. It’s oftentimes confounding, particularly when it
comes to the abstract instrumentals that occasionally fill the spaces between
songs. Yet in the midst of the synthesized set-ups, Weller’s knack for melody
and ebullient emotion manages to turn such tunes as “The Attic,” “Dragonfly,”
“Paperchase” and “Be Happy Children” into a series of emotional juggernauts
that find every pulsating tempo and each twist of a phrase turning those tracks
into a veritable tour-de-force. Given its title, Sonik Kicks proves a point about the worthiness of truth in
advertising, and indeed, with that being the case, Weller gives his listeners
yet another impressive jolt.