Being classed as a venerable music institution means that our perceptions of an artist could be framed, especially when their best material is always whispered to be 25 years behind them. For Paul Weller, obtaining a lifetime achievement award from NME just short of his 50th birthday, it must have seemed an apposite time to rest on laurels well earned.
Weller released his best solo record for over a decade this year with the song cycle 22 Dreams. “Seaspray/22 Dreams”, the second double A-side released from it, showcases Weller’s talents and influences perfectly. “Seaspray” is very reminiscent of Wild Wood‘s bucolic, English psychedelic folk. Mandolin, lush woodwind and horns blend with acoustic guitars and Weller’s careworn vocal line to create a Faces meets Nick Drake style ballad.
“22 Dreams” is a tangled mesh of beat style guitars, and demonstrates Weller’s assertion that “catching the feeling” was the most important element on this record. Whereas the rockier numbers on previous albums sounded synthetic this track is much more authentic, with the grunted backing vocals and Motown horns reaching a blaring crescendo while Weller muses on saving his soul. Lyrically both songs exist as transcendental fugues, embracing oneness with nature and the power of the subconscious.
Much like Oasis on their new album, Weller appears to be fixated on late 60s/early 70s rock. He blends the mod guitar thrash of The Who to the more pastoral elements of Traffic and the vibe, groove and drone of early Krautrock artists like Can. But there’s much more to these songs, hidden layers of aural texture that wash away memories of a decade’s underachievements. Sang with an air of tender resignation they reassert Weller’s position as one of England’s pre-eminent songwriters.
This article was originally produced for http://www.clickmusic.com/. To read the music review of Seaspray/22 Dreams by Paul Weller on the site, please click on the article title.