Paul Weller joined John Lennon and Paul McCartney as the only artists to top the UK album chart in five consecutive decades with last year’s ‘On Sunset’. His 15th album, the modern soul record was one of the best of 2020. But, just like everybody else, Weller had to sit the year out as touring became impossible due to the pandemic. What would he do instead? If you were asking that question, you really haven’t been paying attention…
The 62 year-old songwriter headed into his studio in Surrey and looked up some inspiration while locked down to create another record – his fourth in four years – full of all the music, love and life on offer when an artist’s antenna is always up. ‘Fat Pop (Volume One)’, then, is another Weller album all about music and the muse. “I was thinking about the power of music and the pop song… pop music, for want of a better term, is the only art form that can communicate directly and emotionally.” Weller said that in 2007, talking about The Jam’s ‘Start’, but it could be the mission statement for his career, really.
It’s moving to see the emotional geography behind his latest album sharing a space with something written 15 years ago and thought about over 40 years ago. That’s not the only glance in the rear-view mirror detectable on ‘Fat Pop’, as on record Weller continues to have little romances with his past. The moody dub-funk of the title track nods to the live wig-outs of the mid-90s, ‘Shades Of Blue’ and ‘Glad Times’ are a one-two punch that come with The Style Council’s best moments in the air around their rock ‘n’ soul, while the trippy ‘Testify’ and ‘The Pleasure’ give nods to the urgent clips of ‘Sound Affects’-era Jam with velvet strings recognisable from 2018’s ‘True Meanings’ lightning the load.
It’s not a nostalgic album, though. This music is alive, moving forward and wanting to join in all tomorrow’s parties. Weller’s singing is fantastic throughout, check out the fabulous ‘In Better Time’ and ‘Still Glides The Stream’, and it’s tough to think of an artist who is more comfortable in their own skin at his age. Sharing a space with, say, the Bobby Womack of the revelatory Damon Albarn-assisted ‘The Bravest Man In The Universe’, these twelve songs are the sound of a man staring through a ticking clock and raging against the dying of the light.
What you give is what you get, indeed.