Paul Weller is perhaps most readily recognized for his early years as a member of the influential English mod revival group The Jam during the late 70s, or maybe for his contributions to the commercially successful new wave unit The Style Council over the majority of the 1980s, however the so called Modfather has explored an intense variety of stylistic frontiers over the course of his nearly four decade career.
Whether it was straightforward rock on his debut self-titled 1992 solo album, blue-eyed soul on the aptly titled 1998 installment ‘Heavy Soul’ or focused indie rock on 2010’s ‘Wake Up The Nation,’ Weller has seemingly always managed to impress his advocated audience while placing an assertive control over a revolving door of musical genres.
Where the veteran musician would venture into with twelfth studio album was anyone’s guess, and yet we have been presented with a brawny compilation of alternative rock on the latest Paul Weller installment, “Saturns Pattern.’
The effort’s moderately trippy cover artwork alludes to a progressive rock theme, and while Weller doesn’t stretch to such altitudes there is a hint of vintage nostalgia at play throughout the album, beginning with the crunching chord progressions on “White Sky.” Unfamiliar listeners may be quick to point out some recognizable similarities to The Black Crowes or The White Stripes, however this is classic Paul Weller at it’s strongest.
The bold distorted guitar work takes hold of even the most unacquainted rock fan and has them stop at attention, as wild guitar effects brilliantly emblaze the end result. This embracive approach fortunately doesn’t end there, as the record swiftly carries into the title track, “Saturns Pattern”. Weller’s voice frequently morphs into something oddly reminiscent of late 80s Paul Stanley, which soars above an electric circus of synthesizers and guitar licks.
A continued emphasis on group vocal harmonies finds it’s way to the forefront of “Going My Way,” a song that certainly draws influence from the Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ with it’s accelerated pace with piano accompaniment.
In what may be considered traditional fashion for Paul Weller, the album abruptly changes styles altogether with the punk rock-oriented “Long Time.” This near textbook example of a two chord barn burner with bubbling guitar work ala the Stooges is a clear winner, while the employment of the synthesizer does introduce an atmosphere not entirely unlike The Cars.
“It’s Where I Should Be” enforces a moderate pop rock character set to a head bopping momentum that maintains Weller’s hold on the new wave genre, in what could almost at first be confused for a new number from The Killers.
In contrast, “Phoenix” channels the work of 60s soul with the work of stark melodies and complimentary guitar work. Accelerated blues rock with a psychedelic edge surfaces on “In the Car…”, which alternates between ZZ Top-esque grooves to space rock altitudes before ultimately landing somewhere between the two climates.
This latest installment from Paul Weller concludes on a rather reflective note with the eight minute ballad “These City Streets,” which like several other songs on the album could pass as a new composition by another artist; in this case, a later day Peter Frampton feel is channeled through soulful string bends and a laid back core of soul harmonies and balanced rhythm guitar.
If there was ever an artist who continues to stress the importance of the album as a body of work, Paul Weller fits this classification with his twelfth studio album ‘Saturns Pattern.’ This is simply an album that cannot be appropriately consumed in just a single setting; rather, it’s one that requires the listener to set the record on from start to finish and be prepared to hit the replay button.