Some artists do not age well.
Then there are artists like Paul Weller who, more than 40 years after first making waves with In The City, The Jam’s 1977 debut album, continues to produce new music that is both relevant and deserving of an audience.
And he continues to find that audience, as evidenced by the success of his latest project, On Sunset, which has already found its way into the top spot on the U.K. album charts.
What it will do on this side of the Atlantic remains to be seen. North America is sometimes a little slow to catch on.
Weller’s 15th solo album is a truly stellar effort, one that serves up a little bit of everything, well almost everything.
One minute it’s a soul/R&B record, reminiscent of the material he recorded with Mick Talbot during the seven years they spent together as The Style Council. One track over, it might be a Beatles-esque pop song or something a little jazzy with New Orleans-style horn charts. By the time you’ve navigated your way to the end of the record you will also have heard an orchestral piece, something akin to late 1960s British folk music, heart-tugging ballads or something with a very spacey, otherworldly feel.
Weller is an accomplished tunesmith who likes to continually explore new sounds, new styles of music. But regardless of what direction he chooses to take his music he can always be counted upon to pay meticulous attention to virtually every aspect of a record’s production. He does so again here.
Studying the way he applies himself in the studio is like taking a masterclass in how to make a record.
That attention to detail is part and parcel of who he is and has always been and one of the reasons Weller’s work has served to inspire so many other artists from Oasis and Coldplay to Ocean Colour Scheme, the Stereophonics and The Verve.
Weller began working on On Sunset shortly after finishing 2018’s very well-received True Meanings.
Written and recorded at Black Barn Studios in Surrey, On Sunset was produced by Jan “Stan” Kybert and Weller himself with help from Charles Rees and string arrangements by Hannah Peel.
Weller plays multiple instruments on the record but also utilized members of his regular band, including drummer Ben Gordelier, bass player Andy Crofts and guitarist Steve Cradock.
He was also joined in the studio by several special guests, from Slade’s Jim Lea and Style Council chum Mick Talbot to French singer Julie Gros from the band Le Superhomard. Strype’s guitarist Josh McClorey and English folk trio The Staves were also on deck, adding backing vocals.
On Sunset, which once again finds Weller in excellent voice throughout the record, is available in multiple formats including a two-CD deluxe version.
Choice cuts on this set include Mirror Ball, Village, Equanimity, Rockets, Ploughman and the title track On Sunset.
(Rating: 4 out of 5 stars)
Doug Gallant is a freelance writer and well-known connoisseur of a wide variety of music. His On Track column will appear in The Guardian every second Thursday. To comment on what he has to say or to offer suggestions for future reviews, email him at email@example.com.