Paul Weller has been in the game for nigh on 45 years, and his catalogue boasts 26 studio albums. Those of his sol career have often been an exploration of his latest musical passion - each album has enough difference about it to make it unique from it's predecessor. And in all those switches of style, he's remained relatively clunker-free.
Now into his seventh decade (he's 63 at the end of May), one would think he might start slowing down a bit, revel in his elder statesman position, make the odd guest appearance on mates albums and live shows.
No chance - he's maintained his lifetimes work rate of an album every couple of years. In fact 'Fat Pop' comes just 10 months after 'On Sunset'.
When you hear that a new album is due, the initial excitement is often tempered by "OK, how much experimentation, will he be doing this time?" or that unfortunate thought that there may be a couple of diamonds amongst the tracks, but probably not enough to pull from the shelves again at a later date.
I am very happy to report that 'Fat Pop' may be the album to break that sequence of folly and may well take it's place along side 'Sonik Kicks' as my most played PW album of the 21st Century.
With 'Fat Pop' you get the impression that Paul Weller is writing songs for himself and his audience - something of a departure from previous works where the audience has to catch up and tune in to the vibe.
In doing so, there is an almost perfect balance of the familiar and the new about it, and plenty of diversity in the grooves (or 1s and 0s if you have the CD - which I do)
The opening track - "Cosmic Fringes" - sets the ground for what's coming. A guitar led track with psych overtones bolted to a vaguely recognisable riff, and a virtual spoken word (sing-speak?) delivery.
"True" is a marriage of The Jam and David Bowie's "Heroes", complete with Mott The Hoople-esque honking sax sounds. It's full of energy, and over too soon.
Title track "Fat Pop" slows proceedings down finding laid back soul groove, before a Weller classic-in-waiting arrives - "Shades Of Blue". A valid addition to the Weller cannon. One of his best for many years.
"Glad Times" drops into another soul groove akin to Style Council with dubby and jazzy overtones, complete with a great horn section. Like "Fat Pop" above, this feels like it might be a leftover from 'On Sunset', or at the very least authored around the same time.
"Cobweb / Connection" is acoustic driven with some Spanish guitar interludes. There's a real summery shimmer about the track, if a little insubstantial.
If I'm honest there is a bit of a lull with next 2 tracks - "Testify" and "That Pleasure". There's nothing wrong with the tracks, a bit of blaxploitation funk, a touch of Motown, and more soul grooves just doesn't feel like it's moving forward apace.
With "Failed", I'm not sure if Paul Weller has been hanging about with Noel Gallagher too long, or he's just trying to show him how to do it properly?
"Failed" does lift the album in time for "Moving Canvas" and then into the reflective sounding "In Better Times" which does sound like a throwback to 90s PW.
"Still Glides The Stream" closes the album with lush strings, and a couple of lines that I may be mis-interpreting, but for me seem to sum up the rasion d'etre for the album:
OK, I admit the album is not without some skippable moments, but there is more than enough to just press play and let it run (plus it's not that long an album - just because you can get 70 minutes onto a CD, it doesn't mean you have to)
Shades Of Blue
Still Glides The Stream