35 years after his first release, the former Jam singer returns with his 11th solo studio album.
'Sonik Kicks' is an intriguing mix of classic Weller angst with a more mature foresight into the musician's future, and his reflections on the heady heights of his youth. With a few unexpected surprises, and a sumptuous duet with his current 27 year-old wife, this is one of the more original 'Modfather' albums to be released in recent years.
'Sonik Kicks' opens with the emphatic 'Green' - glitchy bleeps and driving guitar-riffs signal the intent of the rocker not to slow down, or stick to any type of pre-ordained formula. The groove-laden track sees Paul snap out lyrics “Faking/Taking/Leaving/Theiving” in his trademark, brisk style, and is a bold declaration of the 53-year olds to continue his quest in speaking about the roots of English culture.
The album continues on a hectic, non-stop train ride, until the first acoustic track: 'By The Waters' gives you a momentary pause to reflect on the past minutes of thrills. The stripped back guitar strums and lingering strings give Paul a moment to mourn the conditions of modern Britain, longing for life just to stand still for a minute to simply “stand by the water / sit and rest”. The melancholic mood does not last long though, as Weller charges on with the psychedelic 'That Dangerous Age'. While there are moments where he is eager to revisit his illustrious past, the Zepplin-infused track stops the musing becoming overly sentimental, and instead sees the singer talk about his present condition as a middle-aged man dealing with life's problems.
'Study In Blue' is a stand-out track: a dreamy, jazz-inflected piece, teaming Weller up with his wife Hannah on backing vocals. This is the album's centrepiece – both literally: appearing halfway through, and metaphorically: it seems as the first half builds up to this 'sonik kick', and the rest of the album acts as a sort of denouement. This husband-wife duet works surprisingly well, with Paul and Hannah's voices complementing each other in tone, and bouncing off each other's nuances with a sexy, comfortable confidence. Meanwhile the intermingling elements of samba and dub-reggae create the perfect lazy Summer's afternoon track.
As the album nears its beguiling and slightly confused conclusion, the final notes of 'Be Happy Children' capture Weller pontificating about family life. While edging on the cheesy side by featuring vocals from wife and children, the song does paint a portrait of a man that is remarkable in spirit and passionate about his talent.
While Weller's days as part of 'The Style Council' may be long over, his career as a solo artist clearly has room to grow and continue, and as a Brit, you can't help but feel proud and inspired by a man who has helped shaped our heritage, and grown up with our parents and indeed with us. Even if you refuse to hark back through history – the fact that this indie veteran refuses to re-hash his classics and tour on nostalgia must mean that he intends to continue crafting new music. Although not perfect, his latest output is pretty damn impressive.