PAUL WELLER’S REINVIGORATING POST-JAM OUTFIT REVISITED ON VINYL.
UMC, OUT NOW/ AUG/ SEPT
After he ended The Jam at the peak of their success – a decision fuelled by both boredom and idealism – Paul Weller turned away from the three-chord, three-piece band limits of a group formed for punk into a much more ’ 80s notion: The Style Council were eclectic and political, full of jazz, soul, rap and clothes and, to an extent, a collective. Introducing…, their first mini-LP, contains Long Hot Summer, as good a pop-soul ballad as anyone has ever made, as well as debut single Speak Like A Child. Even more striking is Café Bleu, an album bursting with diversity, enthusiasm and, most of all, freedom. Jazz instrumentals, raps, Everything But The Girl and the gorgeous, optimistic Headstart For Happiness all sit next to one another in a set that’s sometimes chaotic but always liberated. Things calmed down a bit on Our Favourite Shop, where funk, soul and Lenny Henry coalesced into a more commercial and professional groove. Weller’s voice was developing into a gorgeous, honeyed thing, while co-singer Dee C Lee added pop-soul texture to the single The Lodgers. By the mid-’ 80s, music was dividing itself into MTV-friendly pop and mumbly indie. The Style Council – poppy and political – didn’t fit any more, and Weller’s work was no longer uncritically admired. The Cost Of Loving ( 1987) was both more condensed and less adventurous. Much more interesting was Confessions Of A Pop Group, which saw both a sense of experiment and Weller’s melodic gifts return. How She Threw It All Away and Why I Went Missing are brilliant songs, while the sheer piano strangeness of tracks such as The Little Boy In A Castle/A Dove Flew Down From The Elephant suggested that there was always more to Weller than crowd-pleasing anthems. But the band’s star was waning and, as success ebbed away, The Style Council’s next release was a cover version of a house track by Joe Smooth called Promised Land – a very good record but confusing for a record company who wanted rock, not dance. The album that would have followed, Modernism: A New Decade, was shelved as Polydor expressed unhappiness at its contents. Now it sounds pretty good, a soulful blend of originality and house influences which resembled the work of several contemporary acts (most notably Pet Shop Boys, whose It’s Alright mined the same cover field); but it terrified record company executives. With the 1990s looming and a cancelled album release in their wake, The Style Council disbanded. Paul Weller promptly entered into the most conservative decade of his career, shadowing Britpop with cautious guitar music. These days, he’s inventive and exciting again, and it’s nice to have these (cute coloured vinyl) reminders of how he was first drawn to invention and excitement. Listen To: Long Hot Summer | Promised Land | Why I Went Missing | The Lodgers
THE STYLE COUNCIL WERE ECLECTIC AND POLITICAL, FULL OF JAZZ, SOUL, RAP AND CLOTHES.