When Paul Weller invited me to his dressing room for a chat, several years ago, I was struck by two things. He was wearing incredible shoes — gleaming, two-toned loafers he had personally designed. If they awarded Grammys for footwear, his mantlepiece would have been groaning.
But he was also exceedingly combative, picking me up on a poorly-researched questions regarding his political campaigning through the 1970s and 1980s (he didn’t see himself as an activist and, despite reports to the contrary, hadn’t manned the barricades to any meaningful degree).
It was a spicy encounter, with a legend who saw little reason to live up to the caricatures in which he had become enveloped.
The encounter cut to the essence of Weller — a dandy with the flinty soul of an artisan. It’s febrile mix, and because of it he remains in fascinating creative fettle, 40 years after the breakthrough of The Jam and two decades after his ‘late career’ rebirth as a solo artist.
He’s reliably confrontational, too, on his new album, a bustling affair that swerves from New York punk-funk to Latino tempos, with thrilling diversions into reggae and orchestral pop. The surprises extend to his choice of collaborators, which include Boy George, Monaghan retro-rockers, The Strypes, and gothic troubadour, Robert Wyatt (who pops up on a song with the aggressively naff title, ‘She Moves With The Fayre’).
Those who flocked to Weller during the post-punk era will be baffled, while fans of his Britpop output may well be appalled.
But perhaps that is the point. Weller’s concept of ‘revolution’ clearly goes beyond the traditional ruckus-causing.
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