Paul Weller – Sonik Kicks (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
YOU can’t keep a good Weller down, it seems. The evergreen Modfather continues to defy the critics with Sonik Kicks, a new album that is notable for continuing to challenge the expectations surrounding him.
Where previous album Wake Up The Nation offered 16 tracks at breakneck pace and with an experimental attitude, this one displays a melting pot of influences from pop-art punch with soulful communication, jazzy explorations that veer towards the psychedelic, hip indie pop moments and forest-folk.
It’s not always successful in everything it tries to do and some of the more psychedelic breakdowns are truly ‘out there’ in a way that’s difficult to access. But in the main, this is Weller making a mockery of the doubters who continue to write him off as past it and delivering a new set of songs with tireless vigour and gusto.
The album starts as it means to go on, with wah-wah electronics and kick-ass beats catapulting the listener into the trippy Green… a lively, sometimes all over the place concoction that sounds like Blur mixed with Bowie and Ian Drury.
The Attic follows with a two and a half minute slice of breezy baroque pop, before Kling I Klang hits you with a dazzling display of Krautrock. It’s a heady brew already that signals Weller’s experimental intent.
Sleep Of The Serene continues the album in the same vein with a seemingly haphazard mix of electronic blips and broken up string arrangements (think Avalanches on acid) before one of a couple of moments of serenity arrives in the form of the stripped back By The Waters, a smooth fusion of soulful vocals, acoustic strums and violin strings.
Former single That Dangerous Age then kick-starts the upbeat vibe with its slick mix of crisp tambourine beats, funky Hammond organs and classic guitar riffs, not to mention the LP’s most anthemic chorus.
And Study In Blue offers a interesting mix of dub, rock and soul that finds Weller dueting for the first time with wife, Hannah – her soft, serene vocals perfectly complimenting and offsetting his. Admittedly, the outro feels a little indulgent as it veers aimlessly into experimental dub but you suspect that’s kind of the point with Weller’s current penchant for experimentation.
Elsewhere, Dragonfly zips along with a more conventional psych-rock approach, When Your Gardens Overgrown dazzles in a Flaming Lips/Yoshimi Battles The Robots kind of way and Paperchase chugs along in more trippy indie-pop vein (a la Blur at times).
Final track Be Happy Children, meanwhile, draws things to a supremely satisfying and even poignant close with a soulful tribute to his late father than includes contributions from daughter Leah and seven-year-old son Mac on vocals. It’s a disarming finish that endears you to the rest of the album perhaps even more.
Sonik Kicks is yet another album from Weller that challenges everything you thought you knew about this particular performer. And while it’s experimental edge may deter some, there’s no denying that when it gets things right (and that’s most of the time) it genuinely dazzles.
Download picks: The Attic, That Dangerous Age, By The Waters, Study in Blue, Dragonfly, Be Happy Children, Paperchase, When Your Gardens Overgrown