Paul Weller’s output over the last decade has been remarkable. Arguably his 50’s have been his most successful decade, without doubt his most creative. Just before he turned 50 he released 22 Dreams, an experimental double album that explored several avenues even the most devout fan may have thought closed to Weller. At the time, it felt like a bookmarking – a slight departure given his milestone in age. In fact, 22 Dreams was the catalyst for Weller’s most prolonged period of envelope pushing, followed by 2010’s Wake Up the Nation, 2012’s Sonik Kicks, 2015’s Saturns Pattern. All forward thinking, progressive records each seeing Weller explore unchartered territories.
On A Kind Revolution Weller continues this theme, straddling several genres while still managing to make a concise, direct record. Having endured periods of being criticised for a perceived predictability in his song writing, particularly following his massive commercial rebirth in the ’90s, it’s not something Weller has had to worry about lately. Whether it’s through his age or success is hard to say but Weller has entered a period where he’s comfortable wearing several different hats, a kind of musical Mr Ben.
‘Woo Se Mama’ opens the record, with P.P Arnold and Madeline Bell on backing vocals evoking early Ike and Tina. Dr John is another influence here. ‘Long Long Road’ and ‘The Cranes Are Back’ fly the flag for the gospel infused piano ballads that have been a corner stone of Weller’s output since his days with The Style Council, both very different songs from the same mould, both bring the quality and growth of his vocal sharply into focus.
Perhaps a notable difference in Weller’s work over the last decade has been his writing process. He used to write almost exclusively on guitar or piano, generally to the point where the songs were complete. These days he’s building songs around a minimal bass line, drum beat or guitar part. He’s allowing more space for the songs to take him where they will. A Kind Revolution is a perfect example of this approach working perfectly. On ‘She Moves with the Fayre’ featuring Robert Wyatt and ‘One Tear’, on which Boy George adds a vocal, there’s an explorative house vibe. If you were to suggest this about Weller in the ’90s people would assume he was looking for a new home. The Strypes’ Josh McClorey lends some of his most visceral guitar playing to ‘Satellite Kid’ as Weller paints himself as perpetually on the outskirts, whether that be of punk or britpop but states defiantly “Don’t count me out, don’t you dismiss me”.
It’s remaining on the periphery for so long that has allowed Weller to avoid being boxed in, letting the quality of his work determine his position. With his contemporaries only able to match his prolificacy when it comes to trips to the bathroom it would be easy to throw flowers at Weller just for having the bloody-mindedness to keep going. A Kind Revolution is far more than that, he continues to push himself into areas he may not be comfortable in. It’s within that discomfort he’s been able to flourish creatively like never before.