By Christopher Hollow.
Paul Weller – Saturns Pattern (Parlophone/Warner)
It can’t be said that a Paul Weller in his mid-50s isn’t fighting against the dying of the light. Saturns Pattern, his 12th solo album, continues his fondness for oversaturated psych-electronica and sonic experimentation; the record bursting with all manner of bleeps, blips, bloops and blobs.
Long-time fans looking for successful Weller studio dial-twisting precedents will be reminded of the Lynch Mob bonus beat version of “Kosmos” that appeared on 1995’s The Rebirth of Cool Phive compilation or the Richard Fearless remix of “Super Lekker Stoned” from 2005. Unfortunately, there’s nothing as loopy as the 2010 Amorphous Androgynous remix of “Aim Higher”.
Bob Dylan revealed recently that he writes new songs to fit what he feels his live set needs. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the sonic bluesy blast of “White Sky” is exactly that. Weller’s very own “Entrance of the Gladiators”. Low on melody, big on beat and a groove with pin-your-ears-to-the-wall intent – perfect as a live ice breaker.
“Going My Way” begins as a heartfelt piano-led cigarette lighter ballad before falling down a rabbit hole and twisting and turning through a series of melodic aural adventures. It’s a song I feel compelled to keep playing to try and make sense of it all.
Weller’s sly sense of humour comes through on “In the Car”, while “Long Time” is paint-throwing fun, a splatter of Blondie’s “Rip Her to Shreds” and the Stooges with its deep voice Iggy melody and stabbing piano. The funky “Pick It Up” has a cheeky clavinet part lifted from a Bill Withers smash hit [“Use Me”] and exhibits a compelling one-chord arrangement.
Those looking for hints of Style Council can find it in “Phoenix” and the title-track.
The finale, “These City Streets”, is an atmospheric mood piece – a love letter to the London lanes that have provided so much inspiration over Weller’s career from Stanley Road to Carnaby and Wardour streets. Like all the great on-the-strip songs it begins with babbling voices [‘Yippie-yi-ay’ says one passer-by] and wailing sirens in the background. Despite the “We still got a way to go” refrain it’s not necessarily a state of the union address or Weller’s stab at a London “What’s Going On”, but over eight minutes it does conjure up a woozy feeling of romance and dislocation.