Hon­est, gu­vnor

A marker of his 60th birthday, recorded in three-and-a-bit creative weeks.

Mojo (UK) - - Filter Albums - By John Har­ris.

Paul Weller ★★★★ True Mean­ings PARLOPHONE. CD/DL/LP

SOME OF the ex­pla­na­tion for Paul Weller’s pas­toral, acous­tic-ish side lies in such el­e­men­tal in­flu­ences as The Bea­tles, The Kinks, and Small Faces. It’s also in­struc­tive to think about his roots in Sur­rey, and a home turf that strad­dled subur­ban sprawl and the green belt. What­ever, mu­sic with a bu­colic as­pect has been part of what he does from the be­gin­ning: go back to 1977, for ex­am­ple, and lis­ten to Tonight At Noon from The Jam’s This Is The Mod­ern World, an evo­ca­tion of love and ru­ral scenery light years away from his punk con­tem­po­raries. Now, 40 years later, this facet of his art is given full rein, to re­peat­edly won­drous ef­fect. The ti­tle of Weller’s 26th al­bum seems to serve no­tice of a jour­ney into its au­thor’s soul. The quiet, plain­tive voice he de­ci­sively found on 2017’s soundtrack to the box­ing movie Jaw­bone lends some of the songs an af­fect­ing sense of in­ti­macy and vul­ner­a­bil­ity; some of the lyrics seem to at­test to ex­is­ten­tial angst, and in­ti­ma­tions of mor­tal­ity. Glide looks back to a time when “all the fears that kept you awake/At night, were strangely calmed”; the nar­ra­tive voice in the im­pos­si­bly el­e­gant Grav­ity wants to “Find the child in­side of me… This rusty key will set him free”, only to be re­gret­fully pulled back to earth. “Oh grav­ity,” Weller laments. “It fol­lows me/Wher­ever I go.” Up close, though, the idea of a 14-track acous­tic (ish) con­fes­sional doesn’t quite add up. Four of the songs have lyrics writ­ten by other peo­ple: one from Conor O’Brien of Vil­lagers, three by Er­land Cooper of Er­land & The Car­ni­val, in­clud­ing Bowie, an el­e­gantly oblique trib­ute to its tit­u­lar sub­ject. And for all the hints of melan­choly, there are also con­trast­ing moods: the cel­e­bra­tion of lust in Come Along (which fea­tures those great English vir­tu­osos Danny Thomp­son and Martin Carthy), and the up­lift­ing themes of Movin On, May Love Travel With You and White Horses, the trip­tych of great songs that closes the whole thing. True Mean­ings’ tri­umph, in fact, is the way it ex­plores an ar­ray of mind­sets, themes and tex­tures while stay­ing true to its sig­na­ture sound, in the man­ner of a great singer-song­writer al­bum from the golden age of such things. The key­note el­e­ments are re­straint, acous­tic guitars and gor­geous or­ches­tra­tions. Mayfly’s flecks of R&B hark back to Bro­ken Stones; in a dif­fer­ent form, Old Cas­tles might have found its way on to ei­ther The Style Council’s early records or their swan­song, Con­fes­sions Of A Pop Group. That said, the amaz­ing thing about this al­most flaw­less record is the way it alights on an en­tirely new air of depth and fas­ci­na­tion, in keep­ing with its au­thor’s age and ex­pe­ri­ence: a real feat, which once again puts Paul Weller in a field of his own.

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