7 June 2015
Paul Weller - Saturns Pattern
Paul Weller is something of a national treasure in the UK, he is is sort of like the head monarch of the mods and alternative rock; if you say anything wrong about him you are took to the tower and beheaded. To be honest the man has been going for years with The Jam and then The Style Council, but his has always had an impulsive edge and wants to change constantly - one of his biggest song is actually called The Changing Man. So we are now in 2015 and this is the twelve solo album by Paul Weller and the follow up to 'Sonik Kicks' (our review of which is cleverly linked here); 'Sonik Kicks' was an album which we found to be good, but not as jaw dropping as the towering 'Wake Up The Nation' album which for me at least is the best thing the man has done since 'The Eton Rifles' with The Jam. Now as I mentioned in the last Paul Weller blog, for the vast percentage of his long and successful career I have not really got what the fuss is about; you cannot deny the man has a talent but for the most part it has just passed me by and I have not really been able to engage with it - 'Wake Up The Nation' is the only album were I have had to stop at take attention, it just spoke to me in such a way that I was not expecting. Not I would be foolish to expect this album to be anything like that record, the modfather is not called the changing man for nothing - but let us see how it has turn out....
"White Sky” is the first track of the album, with looping guitars, cymbals smashing and a riff that rips through it with various other guitar effects cutting in along the way. It is an old school rock number and has more in line with the ‘Wake up the Nation’ era Weller than ‘Stanley Road’. It is the nearest I have heard Paul Weller get to a sound that comes off as almost Led Zeppelin in places, but with the bite of the man we have all come to expect from the changing man, another change in the air for him maybe? The lyrics seem to suggest a journey and the sense of being lost, both in the geographical and human meanings; all held together with a strong riff and charm. The second track is the title song – “Saturns Pattern” which changes in style once again changes, it has a dream styling to the playing in places and sounds as if it is coming from a different era (I would say dimension, but it is not quite space rock); the sense of moving on and washing oneself clean is there as is handing on something to the next generation. Whilst it is not the most grabbing song by Paul Weller for me, it is a well-played number which I am sure will be gratefully received by his fans. Following on is “Going My Way” is a piano number, it sort of moves into another classic rock giant with a Supertramp feel to the chorus section; at this moment of the album, the changing man is truly living up to his name with the latest change to the album. It is a much better number than “Saturns Pattern” for me, but it falls a bit short of “White Sky” as it is a bit too chop/changing for me. The song whilst well played once again, does not settle down – one minute it is up, one minute it is down – and it makes what could have been a very good song into a decent song.
Fourth track “Long Time” is back with the rock/punk feeling and this tale of re-discover of one’s self is somewhat of an extension of the enigma that is Paul Weller. It is good to hear that the man has not forgotten how to rock, but I cannot fail to spot the irony that the man who is always changing had lost his own sense of identity. But that is beside the point, this number is a stomping song which I imagine will be a vital part of his set for this tour. Next we have “Pick It Up” which is another classic rock number, it is a track which you can get lost in and has a hypnotic bass line, the acoustic guitar in the middle bridge is stunning as is the guitar playing on all of this number. When it first started I was not sure of the direction it would take, but with a bit of soul mixed into the number it becomes one of the best tracks on the album. It feels looser than a lot of this album and has that swagger which gives it a bit more interest; another tale of picking up the pieces and moving on is part of the course at this point for Mr Weller, but it has been given a new sheen and works really well. “I’m Where I Should Be” which has a bit of a psychedelic feeling about the vocal delivery from Mr Weller on this number. It does feel as if it was wrote in a different era and has just been released because its time has come. The band sound very focused but loose at the same time and it is a track which I would sometimes avoid, but it is another number that surprises me as it sounds well composed and the performance is very good as well, but the ending sort of feels like it has stopped suddenly instead of a fade that could have made it better.
Seventh track “Phoenix” is the next number on this album; feeling like a cross between “I’m Where I Should Be” and “Pick It Up” with the mixture of styles swimming through the song, “Phoenix” is another song that goes for that retro feeling, with a synth opening and a sirens calling to get the listeners attention, Mr Weller and co build this song on a solid mixture that mixes his sensibilities from The Style Council and his ’22 Dreams’ period as well. Overall it is a number which might be looked over by some, but it should not be in terms of this album as it is one of the lynch pins of the record that makes some of the previous numbers make a bit more sense. The penultimate track “In The Car….” which begins with an acoustic guitar that would not be out of place in a song about cowboys, but that once the song really starts with a pulsating bass guitar it changes, but it keeps changing back to that country feeling as Mr Weller talks about driving around the M25 (for non-UK readers, it is a motorway that loops the area known as London; basically it is a highway to Satan’s arse). This song is very confusing as it does not settle on what it wants to be and no matter how well it is played, if something changes style more times that David Bowie changes haircuts in the 80’s then it is not something that is going to work for me. It is a shame as each section works on its own, but put together it is a bit of a mess. Ending the album is the longest track of the album, “These City Streets” which starts with the sound of any city centre you can care to mention; the riff has a heavy dose of romantic soul about it and sounds mournful to the ears. It is the polar opposite of what “In The Car…..” in terms of consistency, style and performance; the feel is loose but focus and the song is solid as the tale of love for a person and the city brings the curtain down on the album with a great sense of composure and style. The ending starts to move in different directions and is done properly, not at every second note – a great ending number.
So how has the album turned at the end of the day? Well, I would love to be sitting here and say that it is a modern classic and worth all the hype that the UK press have been laying on its feet; but I cannot. I would love to be able to say that Mr Weller and his desire to change at every second has been helpful for the album, but I cannot. I would have loved to be in with the madding crowd, but I cannot; what we have here is some decent songs which are played very well and sound a little bit unfocused and does not know what it wants to be. Changing for changing sake is not always the way and no matter how well some of the number of come across, it does not gel together in a cohesive style. It a decent album. but no more than that - maybe it is time to completely change style again or let the roots take place. Sorry Mr Weller, it is not the album for us.
6.5 out of ten - Now I see where you were going, but not quite there
Top track – These City Streets
You can purchase the album from Amazon here
You can visit the Paul Weller website here
You can stream the basic version of the album on Spotify here - there is a deluxe album and two singles with the same name
You can stream the standard version of the album from Deezer here, again the deluxe and single with the same name on Deezer as well
You can stream the standard version of the album on Tidal here
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