Jamming Through the Revolution
Paul Weller, primarily known as the frontman for The Jam, has been releasing solo albums since the early ’90s. A Kind Revolution will be his eighteenth release, and it’s full of feel-good funk and soul-inspired tracks.
A strong start to an album serves the same function as delicious starter bread at a restaurant. The opener of Paul Weller’s A Kind Revolution is just that — a healthy dose of energy and drive to hook the listener in and keep ‘em around for more. “Woo Se Mama” is a feel-good rock tune with a retro vibe (Huey Lewis comes to mind); the kind of song that’s hard not to move to. It’s fitting that this release welcomes the summer, which is perhaps the most ideal time for a song like this. “Nova” follows, first with semi-atmospheric synth notes, then with a steady guitar groove — it’s the kind of subtle tune that would accompany the “cool kid” in an ’80s high school movie, as he gets out of his old man’s car, trotting (with swagger) towards the school as envious peers look on. But the feel intensifies when the chorus comes around, morphing into a tame hard rock song, keeping consistent with the retro sound of the previous number, while offering, not simply repeating itself.
“Long Long Road,” a very aptly-named track, easily depicts driving down a rural road, with thoughts of love and what’s ahead on the brain. It brings about a smile, a smile only a touch crooked. It’s honest, optimistic and an easy listen. By this point in the album, this may be the best track, with no bad marks against the prior tunes. Placing this track third was a great choice, since the listener has had time to relax from two garage rock-sounding tracks and now can just close his or her eyes and imagine looking up at the trees above. “She Moves With the Fayre” starts with a similar spacey synth as that heard in “Nova,” quickly changing to a unique, fluid groove. About one minute and fifty seconds in, the song takes a breather and sits in a short-lived, piano-backed groove with a pensive sound. A trumpet solo makes an appearance afterwards. This addition makes the tune an appropriate choice from Weller’s album to be played at some beachside, expensive restaurant in Malibu or Santa Monica. The bass and guitar parts are laid over the drums, creating a calm funk vibe and offering a nice contrast to the opening two tunes.
The award for tastiest intro goes to *drum roll please* “The Cranes Are Back,” the fifth track on the album. A similarly easy listen to that of “Long Long Road,” but with dryer instrumentation, a lazier feel to it and more fit for a rainy day. “There will be some hope in the world,” is the standout lyric, oozing with the optimism that the world (in its current state) could use. “Hopper” sounds like the morning after a big party, as all the usual hangover cures are set into motion, but everyone knows that no matter how crappy they may feel now, a great time was still had. This is the third “smiler” from the album (after the previous track and “Long Long Road”). A horn section makes an appearance and shines an even brighter light on this feel-good tune. It almost seems like the title could’ve come about through a drunk person saying he feels “happier,” only to slur his words and misspeak. Maybe so, but probably not (it’s the thought that counts).
From the start of “New York,” one might think that Weller is trying to satisfy a diversity requirement, after hearing how the use of cowbell makes this track sound noticeably different. However, this does not detract from the song’s quality. Plus, the moving bass line makes for good spy music, and who doesn’t like to imagine themselves as a secret agent? The chorus deviates from this initial feel, as common with the rest of this album, and is arguably weaker than the verse. Not every song can be catchy, and, besides, having a better verse than chorus is certainly not an inherently bad thing. This is likely the most experimental number. “One Tear,” the album’s longest song at six minutes continues in the trend of unique introductions. The very beginning (also with some astronomical synth sounds) is separate from how the song sounds just twenty-five seconds in — a stylistic observation, not a criticism. Weller doesn’t start singing until roughly one minute and ten seconds in, and the groove that follows his first verse is arguably the best from the album. The bass and drums line up in just the right way to get the R&B enthusiasts in the room bobbing their heads. “One tear could say it all,” is one of the most powerful lines, instantly conjuring up images of someone trying to hide their emotions, but failing to conceal how he or she truly feels. Around four minutes in, a running stream can be heard (as the beat takes a pause), helping make this a truly captivating track.
No surprise by this point, but “Satellite Kid” also features a strange, separate intro before hopping into the main tune; and this particular song exhibits Weller’s soft spot for folk music. If any of these songs were to be played in a barn, this would be the one. A guitar solo finds its way in here, and doesn’t bury the rest of the instruments — not a bad song, but perhaps the weakest in this project. The entire album has an undercurrent of space and life beyond, and this one fits in thematically, but not musically. The closing track, “The Impossible Idea,” bookends the album by actually starting with the beat that is present for the rest of the song (as “Woo Se Mama” did), and finds itself at home on an overcast Sunday afternoon. It tackles the struggle of wanting to change the world but being unable to change one’s self. Overall, A Kind Revolution bore just the right touch of variation and consistency, with thoughtful words from Weller, all resulting in a successful album.