In the run-up to releasing this, his 11th solo album, 53 year old Paul Weller said “I want to be relevant now, in 2012”. Coming from any other middle-aged musician this statement would be seem delusional. However, as well you know, this isn’t any other musician. Through hugely popular songs like ‘That’s Entertainment’, ‘Going Underground’ and ‘Walls Come Tumbling Down’, Weller’s made the kind of cutting social commentary that keeps it relevance 30 years later. Furthermore, on the back of two critically lauded LPs (the sprawling 22 Dreams and Mercury Prize nominee Wake Up The Nation), new album Sonik Kicks comes poised for glory.
The only thing is it’s not very good. In fact, it’s fair to say, Sonik Kicks is patchy at best. Opening track ‘Green’ establishes the order of business. Three minutes of cod-psychedelics with nothing to say. Even as an intro, it smacks of laziness – substituting studio-trickery where a song should be. Sadly, the same flaw underpins much of this album. From the instrumental interlude ‘Sleep Of The Serene’, to the six-minute dub reggae of ‘Study In Blue’, Sonik Kicks sees Weller concerned mainly with window-dressing.
In his pursuit of ‘forward-thinking mod(ern) production’, the Woking soul brother smothers us with bells and whistles. On the occasion things get a little stripped back, the results are really rather good. The acoustic led ‘By The Waters’, sounds unhindered and effortless. His vocal pushed to the fore, Weller soars amongst sparse strings. Penultimate track ‘Paper Chase’ also benefits from a less is more approach, while lead single ‘Dangerous Age’ sees some coalescence of song and production.
In the end though, Weller goes out with a whimper. For a man who wants relevance in 2012, the saccharine platitudes of closing track ‘Be Happy Children’ sound farcical. In another era, Weller might have seen recession and riots and urged “shout to the top”. On Sonik Kicks however, showing his age and priorities, the Modfather croons a lullaby with his daughter.