BEWARE THE SECOND WAVE
As we enjoy this heatwave in Finland and relax with each other, literally sharing the same spaces once again, we must realise the temporary nature of our new freedom.
I became an obsessive fan of The Jam at around the age of 13 – I even had a photo book of my favourite press clippings of the band. This love for The Jam also ignited some kind of realisation that political discourse actually exists within the confines of pop music. What was astonishing about records like ‘Going Underground’ or ‘Town Called Malice’ going straight into the #1 spot on the national pop charts was the potent message those singles possessed. Of course, as I got older, I realised a lot of my contemporaries despised The Jam’s Paul Weller, finding his political songs too simplistic and dismissed them as nothing more than sloganeering. For me Weller’s lyrics hit home because I could fully relate. When singles such as ‘Funeral Pyre’ also went straight in at #1 you had to admire the sheer gall of releasing such uncommercial music and then seeing it hitting the top of the charts. The Jam remain one of the great British single bands.
Once The Jam ended there was a dramatic change from Weller with what came next; The Style Council. In came a mix of cappuccino drinks, Euro Euphoria and a committed focus on style – the political intensity and focus on living in Thatcher’s Britain that so defined The Jam disappeared. Weller, always a modernist in the truest sense, was now increasingly becoming a foppish clothes horse, enjoying not being the voice of a generation and even more so enjoying being a pop star and having some fun. It’s astonishing to think that Weller was still only 25 when he formed The Style Council, but the sense of relief from Weller is evident in the freedom of the music The Style Council initially released. One could surmise that Weller had simply had enough carrying that political lyrical torch. It felt like he was more enthused by singing songs relating to matters of the heart and looking good in some sharp vintage threads and tailor made suits (which he still does) than plotting any further political music movement.
I FOUND YOU AGAIN
For me, I lost interest in Weller and his music for a long time after those first couple of Style Council records. The band descended into a bland pastiche of soul and trying to keep up with some notion of modern pop trends, which by the end saw Weller struggle professionally. I was late picking up on Weller’s increasingly successful solo career and kind of resented his honorary status amongst the Britpop community (Weller was always so much better than that.) But then the 22 Dreams album pulled me back into his orbit. Mostly absent was the dad rock replaced by a wide palate that took in a myriad of influences backed by solid songwriting and wilful experimentation. And ever since it’s been mostly great stuff from Weller. His voice has matured, his records remain eclectic and interesting and his songwriting still delivers. His politics still appear in his music from time to time but it’s more subtle and more grown up. The bright spark of political anger that so defined his youth has mostly gone but musically Weller remains a contender.
Nick Triani is an editor and contributor to One Quart Magazine