Paul Weller | Sonik Kicks
Neatly sidestepping the descent into wobbly middle-aged and middle of the road dreariness a la Peter Gabriel and David Gilmore, Paul Weller has sensibly kept his modish suits sharp and his music even sharper of late. Clearly underneath that spiky hedgehog haircut lies an overactive brain that is showing no sign of slowing down despite his 54 years.
With the enthusiasm of a puppy on crack, Weller eschews the vintage tinted nostalgia of 1995’s Stanley Road and the dad-rock of follow up Heavy Soul on Sonik Kicks to hectically delve into a range of genres–often times just momentarily–firing out ideas and weird interludes like a catherine wheel gone haywire.
Psychedelic punk pop and cosmic guitars are liberally splashed across the album, but the real surprise is the gorgeous and quite unexpected dub bliss out of “Study in Blue”, which the album is more or less built around. A duet with fifth (yes fifth) wife Hannah, the song mutates halfway through into psychedelic dub reggae. Simply put, it’s just great, the sort of ganja-hinged preposterousness you’d never expect from Weller.
Far from coherent, a few too many electro blips, bleeps and high-pitched white noise hint that someone got a little too carried away on the mixing desk. You can imagine Weller sneaking into the control room between tracks and fiddling with the buttons before being swatted away by the sound engineer and told to stay put in the studio. Opening track “Green” suddenly fades out for a few seconds around the 1.40 mark like someone has spilt coffee over the cross fader, and by the end of the ‘experimental’ 2.01 minutes of “Sleep of the Serene”, the acoustic slide into “By The Waters” is a sublime relief. Furthermore, the 20 seconds of interlude “Twilight” could have easily been left on the cutting room floor altogether IMHO.
So is Sonik Kicks actually any good? Well, yes and no. Your dad will love it and think it’s groundbreaking. Meanwhile younger listeners will wonder why some old crusty is trying to do dub. Obviously Weller doesn’t care either way, and is content to do whatever the hell he pleases for now. Good on him.