Sound: Paul Weller, The Modfather. After leading The Jam in the late 70's/early 80's, Weller went on to form The Style Council, a somewhat underrated band who produced some fantastic blues/jazz albums. Post-Style Council, Weller fell out of the limelight into obscurity, having nothing to inspire him. In this period, Weller re-visited his home-town of Woking, Surrey, to gather ideas. Suddenly, in 1992, Weller burst right back into the spotlight with his eponymous album, full of cracking tunes. Now, somewhat later, he has an extensive history as a solo artist. One of the best albums from his solo career is "As Is Now", what I and many others consider to be his last great album.
"As Is Now" is jam-packed full of good tunes. Highlights include "Blink And You'll Miss It", "All On A Misty Morning" and the solemn yet beautiful "The Pebble And The Boy", a reworking of an old Style Council number.
This album provides a perfect mix between blitzing rock songs, joyful acoustic summer jingles and sombre melodies. There are very few tracks which I didn't like, amongst them "Pan" which sounds like it was written whilst Weller was high. In fact, he probably was. But for relaxing in the garden on a summer day with a pint of cider and a cigarette, this album is brilliant.
As a sound engineer myself I can safely say that this album is a well produced working. Not much is wrong here, nice, crisp sounding drum kit. Panning is all good. Lovely overdrive tone. I just wish the snare was a little more prominent in the mixes. // 9
Lyrics and Singing: Weller's voice, as ever, divides opinion enormously. I love it, crisp, rasping and aggressive when it needs to be. My brother, no fan of Weller, abhors it. The singing is much improved from Weller's earlier Jam days which was mainly just shouting; Weller now uses vibrato, accidentals and all sorts of other vocal techniques. It's much more polished. Somehow, I feel as if it's lost something, but that's a minor nuisance.
Lyrics are generally decent. They're getting worse though, that much is clear. Take a look at this extract from "All On A Misty Morning" which is sung in a suitably creepy manner:
"Let my hands be nimble
Let my tongue be quick
Let my loins move slowly
Against your skin"
Yeah... Okay. Keep that to yourself mate, I don't want to listen to some bloke singing that! But apart from this, the lyrics are alright. // 7
Impression: "As Is Now" struck me as one of Weller's best albums since "Stanley Road". His previous three, "Illumination", "Heliocentric" and "Heavy Soul" didn't really strike a chord with me. As ever, I feel Weller is a little hit and miss; but this album is definitely a hit.
One thing I love about this album is the return to rock. His previous two were good, yet they were less aggressive, more laid back records. This opens up straight away with an in-your-face, overdrive-laden monster. It's a fantastic record. Buy it. // 8