So the 41-year recording career of Paul Weller continues with this, the release of his 14th solo album, True Meanings. It’s always a little bit difficult (and, perhaps, somewhat biased) when I write about Mr. Weller, as along with Paul McCartney, he’s been THE biggest influence in my musical life – and in many ways, in my personal being; certainly when I was a teenager. It was through Mr. Weller that I worked at being a songwriter/lyricist of consequence; a lot of the visual cues I took from him and his general approach was something I related to, wholeheartedly.
From The Jam to the (somewhat uneven) years of The Style Council to his solo work, I’ve been there. Some of it I embraced completely; others, not so much. But it’s like that with any artist, especially someone you genuinely love and respect. I’ve always been of the mindset that you should appreciate a musician’s desire to grow beyond their own limitations, niche sound, etc. It may not always appeal to you, but you have you give them credit for being willing to try and move either forward or in different directions, rather than playing safe and becoming stale. And with his last releases, starting with Wake Up The Nation, Paul Weller has come charging forward, at times, rocking with a fury quite unexpected (Saturns Pattern comes to mind) or electronic music that actually has emotion (Sonik Kicks). So I don’t go into each new album from Mr. Weller with an automatic expectation – I prefer to think “what is he going to do now?”
Opening with the very warm, acoustic “The Soul Searchers”, you get the feeling that this album is a spiritual journey and Mr. Weller employs a smooth, softer inflection in his vocal delivery; it’s a perfect introduction for what’s to come; “Glide” is exquisite; the melody, the vocal and the lyrics make you feel – “…when the anchor of kindness held you safe in someone’s arms/and all the fears that kept you awake at night were strangely calmed…” – wrapped in a moving string arrangement and acoustic guitars cascading all around. “Old Castles” has a jazzy shuffle – not dissimilar to Weller’s last B-side for The Jam, “Shopping”, but the sophistication between 1982 and now is evident as is the word painting; “Bowie” is something of a surprise as Weller pays tribute to the late Mr. Jones in a thoughtful, personal fashion (“…but letting go is thanking you…”) and “Aspects” is the standout – a powerful, emotive ballad that crosses the best musical stylings of Bert Jansch and Nick Drake – I absolutely love this track; it can bring tears to your eyes and “May Love Travel With You” may be one of Mr. Weller’s finest moments in his long and legendary career – it’s almost like a coda for a story that began so long ago and is reaching a joyful conclusion, but most importantly, it’s a song of hope, which few artists seem to remember as being essential.
This is Mr. Weller’s most fully-realized concept and without question or hesitation, I can say he’s truly knocked it out of the park on this album. Of course, I will add that some of the guests on this album are a perfect fit – Rod Argent, Danny Thompson (Pentangle double bassist extraordinaire, etc.) and that only adds to the beauty. As I said, you get the impression it’s a spiritual journey – and it is. The journey of emotions from within, being shared with all – for those who care to take the time to contemplate what it all means (and believe me, it’s heavy when you think about it). It’s a pastoral, lush collection of songs that can reach across all ages, personalities and so on. It’s an album full of humanity, caring, perspective and most of all, love. And you cannot find fault with any of that. And after forty-plus years, he still manages to surprise and surpass his own amazing catalog. Cheers to Paul Weller for the album of the year (I think).
*An absolute must – share this with someone you love.
It should be noted, there are several variations/packages available of True Meanings; any one will suffice!
True Meanings is available now