When Paul Weller isn’t serenading the walkers and warders of Negan’s saviours on The Walking Dead he’s writing songs, which is what he’s doing now. So, no live shows. However, Weller’s latest band enjoyed the experience of playing together so much that they didn’t want it to end. They put on a couple of small shows without Weller under the moniker The Songbook Collective. Then a couple more slightly larger shows, then came the record of the same name.
The band is made up of Steve Cradock (Ocean Colour Scene, The Specials), Andy Crofts and Ben Gordelier (The Moons), Andy Lewis (Spearmint) and Steve Pilgrim (The Stands). All well-worn road warriors, all multi-instrumentalist and all bringing their own contributions to the table. This record does exactly what it says on the tin, every member of the Collective has other irons in the fire. The Songbook Collective is a place for this set of songs to live. Having four separate song writers on the record makes for a pretty diverse mix, fans of the members’ previous work will be able to pick out just who wrote which songs.
Andy Lewis contributions stand out a mile, proudly flaunting his 60’s influences. His ‘Take A Good Look’ wouldn’t sound out of place blaring from the stereo of Austin Powers’ E-type Jag, the swirling organ solo whirling as the polka dot bikini clad girls submerge themselves in an imaginary psychedelic sea. ‘Logging Off’ is another Lewis gem, an ode to the obsessive mod ideology full of neurotic humour.
Opener ‘Weight of the World’, written by Pilgrim, rides along on a thick, wet bass groove as guitar lines lead up into and down out of the chorus. There’s also a little nod to Weller with the guitar part from The Jam’s ‘No One In the World’ making a fleeting appearance. Croft’s ‘Today’ trots in on bongos, drenched in backing vocals. Cradock’s ‘Checkmate’ is a skewed take on the game of chess as a metaphor for life with a wicked sense of humour, either that or he’s just shite at chess.
Having a drummer and a percussionist is a clear influence on this record with rhythms shifting throughout. You can tell Weller has them well drilled, there’s ‘dit-dit-doo-doos’, prolonged ‘ahhhs’ and hands clapped in unerringly precise unison all over this LP. It’s unclear whether or not there are more releases in the pipeline but if you’re a fan of the band members’ other work or indeed Weller’s this record will make you feel warm inside. If not, there’s a varied enough selection to dip in and find something that will ring your bell.