Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Day Things Turn Sweet

 
Original Facebook post here.
Today's formative-album replay: Style Council, My Ever Changing Moods. As with Elvis Costello, I got introduced to Paul Weller after his "punk" days, then backtracked: With Costello it was the bright, slick Punch the Clock that first made me a fan, though I've since largely grown out of love with that album in favor of some of his sharper, more characteristically tetchy records. With Weller, on the other hand, it was the intro that stuck; though I've come to admire some of his earlier work with The Jam and his later work on his own, this suave retro-soul sampler from 1984 still holds up remarkably well. Its blend of hollow-body jazz guitar, cafe strings, strutting horns and big beats was never really fashionable, even or especially in the ska-happy mid-'80s, but it seemed to conjure its own parallel pop universe, where all these old and new things made sense together, a place where Henry Mancini and Grandmaster Flash were both at home. This was anti-Thatcher pop rendered in smooth styles Maggie herself might have enjoyed if she didn't listen too closely the lyrics, or check the titles ("Dropping Bombs on the White House," for instance, is a deft instrumental shuffle Art Blakey wouldn't sneeze at).

Indeed, whereas at the time this seemed to my sheltered ears like an almost anarchically eclectic mix (hip-hop and ragtime piano on the same record?), what impresses me on a fresh listen is how well it all hangs together. There's maybe a tad too much synth-y gloss on some of these arrangements, and the faintest trace of glibness in Weller's genre sampling--but, blessedly, no distancing irony in it. He sounds as endearingly besotted with pop-soul and jazz chords as he once was with The Kinks or The Clash. And when that kind of fan-boy reverence is given such joyous expression, it is hard to resist; it infuses the album, even in its weakest moments, with an almost overpowering sweetness. Weller's moods may change, but on this album they all sound like good ones.

NOTE: I almost forgot that I dealt admiringly with the above song, and particularly its "chorus lift-off," here.

Comments:
Kristin Maloney Oo thanks for this! Love Paul Weller!
Rob Weinert-Kendt I neglected in this space to thank Dennis Kim-Prieto for exposing me to this record, as well as the fine work of The Jam.
Cinco Paul I loved this album and can't believe Dennis introduced you to it and not me.
Chris Coffman Every once in a while I get the lead melody for "ever changing moods" in my head. It just jumps in there. 
I saw the guv at coachella one year (some guy named Johnny marr accompanied); that show jarred me. I have much of his solo work and still am able to get inspired by him.

Chris Coffman Oh, and thank you
Rob Weinert-Kendt @Cinco: You weren't even responsible for most of the Costello, believe it or not! If memory serves, you were aghast that I'd fallen for PUNCH THE CLOCK, but you did later help convince me that IMPERIAL BEDROOM is his masterpiece. But you CAN claim having introduced me to The Replacements and Randy Newman, so there's that.
Dennis Kim-Prieto this record sounds like summer. the jam sounds like the fall and winter. and if i introduced you to the jam/style council and elvis, then i have you to thank for the replacements (via cinco, i guess), and husker du. i still get chills at zen arcade...
Rob Weinert-Kendt What's funny, Dennis, is that I passed Husker Du onto you without really getting into myself. But such is taste. I have to credit for Violent Femmes, too, I think, and probably the Smiths (though I didn't really "get" them till later). I heard a lot of those on those drives homes in your Volkswagen Rabbit. What do kids do now to share music, Spotify? Dropbox?
Dennis Kim-Prieto those were good times in that rabbit. it was a good old car.
Cinco Paul Zen Arcade! I need to give that a listen again. I was actually pretty fond of Punch the Clock, but I'm sure I considered it a big drop-off from his earlier work, especially IB. And believe it or not, the teens I know make mix CDs for each other.
Rob Weinert-Kendt Mix CDs! The heart (almost) warms. Mix tapes were a much more constrained/honed form, because you had to do them in real time (and get the levels just right!)...but still, the fact that kids are still exchanging actual items is heartening (though they probably just burn and dump the contents into their iPods, right?).
Justin Warner I really like this version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9x-JlyfVRs SaveFrom.net

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