Abel Tesfaye's dark, twisted album is at odds with the glossy pop world he's been thrust into
Roundhouse, London, March 19th
Happily, he’s finally cracked the whole ‘continued brilliance’ malarkey. ‘Sonik Kicks’ is a revelation; Weller’s pimped out in a grey mullet and suit that makes him look like he’s come straight from a Kray’s funeral, his trademark Motown, soul and folk-pop leanings drenched in a motorik electronic scree and a kraut-psych thrum that makes the first hour feel like Weller’s fiddling around under the bonnet of the zeitgeist for the first time in decades. Backed by a quintet of alien strings, ‘Green’ is all spoken-word Berlin Bowie verses and space-rock swirl; ‘That Dangerous Age’ imagines Gorillaz covering ‘Tracy Jacks’, shoo-wop style; ‘The Attic’ is psychedelic soul that’s as Motown as Marvin, but deftly breezy too.
With barely a between-song utterance, Weller pounds out this modernist but tuneful mêlée, tapping tambourine through the Eastern-tinged sonic skyride of ‘Drifters’. He does dust off The Jam’s ‘English Rose’, but even so, the acoustic set inevitably feels dull by comparison. And despite cracking out ‘Wake Up The Nation’ in the final electric portion and getting Miles Kane on for ‘Echoes Around The Sun’, matching his hero snarl for snarl and receiving his nu-soul baton with aplomb, there still has to be a lengthy, Clapton-esque fretwank to the fuck-awful ‘Foot Of The Mountain’.
But for the most part Weller’s remaking his own bed here, full of renewed vigour and invention, bravely discarding familiar tunes in favour of setting his year zero (loosely) at 2008 and only playing what he calls tonight “the greatest hits of tomorrow”. It might frustrate those rapturously flinging their lager to a grudging finale of ‘Town Called Malice’, but this is Weller 4.0, and the Podfather demands the world follow.
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