Friday, July 2, 2010

Paul Weller: Heavy Soul (1997)

(As published in Real Groove ... )

Paul Weller
Heavy Soul

The mistaken idea that only the young have fun does more harm than old rockers who don't know when to quit, but old rockers who don't know when to quit lend credence to the mistaken idea. At thirty-nine, Weller is hardly old, but with four aimless solo albums under his belt--each one more leaden than the last and Heavy Soul as aimless as any of them--he seems further from a rocking good time now than at any other point in his post-Jam-Style-Council career. Don't blame his socialism--most of these lyrics are too vague for politics (from "Brushed": "[T]he tune in your head ... illuminates life / and makes you see / all the love within / is still yet to come out"). Even the titillatingly titled "Up in Suzes' Room" gets no more specific than "she licks my face and the feeling spreads," raising the possibility that Suzes might, in fact, be a dog. Still, the lyrics of the title cut and the melodies of both "I Should Have Been There to Inspire You" and "Mermaids" are worthy of Moondance-era Van Morrison. Notice, however, that this album's best lyrics and best melodies occur in separate songs, a structural defect that points up Weller's inability to focus at least as much as his disconcerting tendency to sing like that most unfocused of old rockers, Joe Cocker.

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