It’s 40 years since Paul Weller first sang about “the young idea” on The Jam‘s 1977 track ‘In The City’, but as he approaches 60, the passage of time has become a far more potent muse than the fires
of youth. Weller began work on ‘A Kind Revolution’, his 25th studio album (with The Jam, Style Council and as a solo artist), almost immediately after completing his last one, 2015’s ‘Saturns Pattern’, and apparently has a follow-up written and ready to go, continuing the remarkable late-career renaissance he’s had for the last decade or so. He’s at an age where he’d be forgiven for resting on his laurels with one eye on his legacy, but Weller himself remains focused on the next great song he hasn’t written yet.
On that front, ‘A Kind Revolution’ adds a few more to the arsenal. The gravelly R&B stomp of opening track ‘Woo Sé Mama’ is a peacock-suited nod to Dr John, while ‘Long Long Road’ finds him in familiar blue-eyed balladeering mode. Yet ‘A Kind Revolution’ never stays in one place long enough to be pigeonholed as one thing or the other. For proof of that, you need look no further than his choice of guest stars – perhaps only Weller could coax Robert Wyatt out of retirement for the jazzy ‘She Moves With The Fayre’, then rope in Boy George for the pulsating disco-funk of ‘One Tear’.
The popular caricature of Weller as a cantankerous craftsman of yer da’s ‘real music’ has always been overplayed, yet rarely has it felt so comically wide of the mark: in the rare moments where ‘A Kind Revolution’ doesn’t quite hit the mark, it’s never through any lack of invention or imagination. “I can’t seem to let it go / There’s too much to do,” he sings on the album’s Bowie-esque lead single ‘Nova’, signalling that he’s nowhere near ready to take up the pipe and slippers. He may have started out as the quintessential angry young man, but he’s become a textbook study in growing old gracefully – by doggedly refusing to stay set in his ways, Paul Weller keeps finding new ones to surprise us.