Paul Weller – Saturns Pattern

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The Modfather shifts his sound again, moving into acid-spiked psychedelia

Paul Weller’s time with The Jam and The Style Council was marked by constant stylistic renewal, careering through genres like a speeding mod on a runaway scooter. For a long time, the solid rock of his solo years suggested he’d given up challenging himself, but late period triumphs like 2008’s ’22 Dreams’ and 2012’s ‘Sonik Kicks’ have found the 56-year-old broadening his palette once again, trying out styles from pulsing Krautrock to harp-strewn jazz. Twelfth solo album ‘Saturns Pattern’ backs up recent promises of another shift in sound, sending him into uncharted, acid-spiked waters.

Across a concise nine tracks, Weller changes gear from the soft reverie of ‘I’m Where I Should Be’ to the revving Stooges riffing of ‘Long Time’. Josh McClorey – guitarist for teenage Irish rhythm’n’blues revivalists The Strypes – adds daggers of electric slide to the latter, a reminder that Weller can spot fiery talent in even the most retro-minded musician. It’s a point reiterated on the ticking funk of ‘Pick It Up’ and soulful closer ‘These City Streets’ by the vocal presence of Liam Magill, frontman of Canterbury psych quartet Syd Arthur. ‘Saturns Pattern’ is the sound of Weller finding new ways to challenge himself.

Take bracing opener ‘White Sky’. Based on Weller’s sessions with psychedelic Manchester-based production duo Amorphous Androgynous (Gaz Cobain and Brian Dougans), it’s a heavy drum groove, pinned down by a crunching guitar riff and shot through with growling synths and seemingly random overdubs, including what sounds very much like the studio computer crashing mid-song. “You can be king for a day/But still have nothing to say”, Weller snarls, aiming his ire at an unspecified young pretender.

Keeping one foot in the past, the late Beatles feel of cosmic love song ‘Going My Way’ (“Floatin’ on the sound around/Flying through the universe”) and ‘Phoenix’ – the album’s simplest pleasure – aren’t going to scare any longtime fans. But when even the stomping trad blues of ‘In The Car…’ is disrupted by bursts of squiggling synth and oblique piano jazz, Weller’s promise of sonic surprises holds true.

Stuart Huggett

Details

Director: Jan 'Stan' Kybert, Paul Weller
Record label: Parlophone
Release date: 18 May, 2015