Overlooked Classics
By Anthony Sid Stobart
Saturday 08 Jan 2011 09:27:00
Browse all Anthony Sid Stobart articles
 


‘Stanley Road’ is the best album of the 1990s! This may be a bold statement, but in my mind there is no doubt. To some fans of Oasis and Radiohead this surely can’t be true. However, despite the merits of both bands and the fact that both bands wrote two very good albums each in the 1990s, neither would prove to be as consistent as Weller and neither would be able to create a full album without any filler. How Weller managed to get to this high point of his career speaks volumes of the man. He had peaked with The Jam writing classic albums such as ‘All Mod Cons’ (1978), ‘Setting Sons’ (1979) and my personal favourite and Weller’s ‘Sound Affects’ (1980). He then controversially split The Jam and created The Style Council. For a ‘Jam Head’ like me, everything seemed to have gone wrong. As I have matured, however, I have really come to like The Style Council and consider the albums ‘Cafe Bleu’ (1984) and ‘Our Favourite Shop’ (1985) to be very good albums. Although Confessions of a Pop Star (1988) is pap!

By 1990 Weller was without a record deal and was considered a ‘spent force’ by the music industry. He had been openly mocked for accepting ’house music’ and his last proposed Style Council album was shelved.

Weller had to go back to the drawing board. He still appeared to feel insecure about playing as a solo act, so he went half way and created a band called The Paul Weller Movement. This would prove to be a turning point; they would play small venues (half empty), mixing Jam songs, Style Council songs and covers.  This inspired Weller and he started to write again. He was inspired by the acid-jazz scene of the time and by bands such as The Young Disciples. He started to write material which clearly revealed this influence as well as fuse both bands from his past together: he had discovered a new sound. New songs were being aired and he self-released the single ‘Into Tomorrow’ in May 1991 and it reached the top 40. Having heard it on the radio and seeing him do it on Jonathan Ross’ Channel 4 show I knew he was back; this was his finest single since ‘Walls Come Tumbling Down’! It was everything I least expected. It was guitar driven, psychedelic and had cool-funk aggression. It would be no understatement to say that this single alongside ‘In the City’ was Weller’s most important; it created belief, both for him and for his fans. The lyrics to the song summarise Weller’s need to search for the ‘new way’ and indeed the whole album’s lyrics appear to be about searching for something in life:

And if at times it seems insane –all the tears in searching;

Turning all your joy to pain –in pursuit of learning;

Praying that it will connect - can’t escape the sorrow;

Your mojo will have no effect – as we head into tomorrow

This led Weller to record the self-titled album (dropping the name Movement) with producer Brendan Lynch –who would prove to be a major influence on Weller’s sound. The album featured a range of people including long time drummer Steve White, Jacko Peake on Saxophone and flute, Dr Robert adding various instruments and Weller playing guitars and bass as well as some percussion. The album would finally be released on the ‘Go’ label in 1992 and reach number 12 in the UK charts. It was Weller’s funkiest album to date and would be the album that would reconnect him with the British public. It was ‘cool’ to like Weller again and the album cover defined the self-assurance that Weller had rediscovered. He posed in a smart cream top and adopted the look that would earn him the tag as the ‘modfather’. 

 

The album contained guitar based songs such as ‘Uh Huh Oh Yeh’ and ‘Into Tomorrow’ and these cool funk sounds were tempered by the beautiful haunting Fender Rhodes sound on ‘The Strange Museum’. Other songs such as ‘I Didn’t Mean to Hurt You’ is clearly soul-influenced and reveals a real sense of pain. Kosmos would allow Weller to self-indulge in guitar effects –although I blame Nirvana for the fact that the album fades and after some 5 minutes of blank space the song comes back on. Why? Fortunately this fad seemed to die during the mid nineties.

 

This album certainly reveals Weller’s love of Stevie Winwood as much of this could easily have been a Traffic album. Weller would go on to create a number of superb albums including ‘Wild Wood’ (1994); the highly underrated ‘Heavy Soul’ (1997) and the magnificent ‘As is Now’ (2006) none of these would be possible without this self assured first classic solo album. Switch it on –preferably late at night and chill out. Even better, make love to it!



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