Sound — 7
To say that Paul Weller is no stranger to the rock community would be an understatement. The rock vocalist has repeatedly found his way into the public eye beginning with his work as a member of the influential English mod revival band The Jam during the 1970s, which would then carry into a similarly successful tenure with new wave unit The Style Council over most of the following decade. Weller has since developed an extensive career as a solo artist beginning with his self-titled 1992 debut installment, where has continued to explore an intense variety of musical styles including punk rock, blue-eyed soul, indie rock, R&B and new wave. This carousel of styles has made for quite the entertaining journey for dedicated listeners who have followed Weller's career over the course of the past four decades, while occasionally stopping to attract the interest of unfamiliar listeners along the way. So when it came down to the twelfth studio album from Paul Weller, it's safe to say that no one was genuinely surprised when the announcement detailing an alternative rock-inspired installment was issued.
"Saturns Pattern" has perhaps more to do with a vintage hard rock approach with strong ties to the genre's 1970s period than alternative rock, however there's no point in arguing with the end result found throughout these nine hard hitting compositions. The album begins to the roars of a fuzz pedal and ferocious chord progressions on "White Sky," which invokes an apparent resemblance to The Black Crowes. The high velocity guitar stylings of Weller rise above melodic vocal harmonies and protruding synthesizer arrangements, as we move into the moderately psychedelic title track, "Saturns Pattern." We're greeted at the forefront by a dramatic presentation of harmonica, moog, electronic elements and engaging bass lines, as Weller nails some rather impressive high notes for a nearly 60 year old vocalist. A galloping pace with piano accompaniment stands at the helm of "Going My Way," where a bold emphasis is centered toward the vocal harmonies and not so much on the guitar work.
The aforementioned "Going My Way" serves as a refreshing change of pace, however it's on "Long Time" that we're thrust straight into an adrenalized punk rocker centered around a two chord theme and interactive vocals from Weller. "I'm Where I Should Be" reinforces the vocalist's ties to the new wave scene by employing a melodic synthesizer refrain with articulate acoustic guitar to a contemporary pop rock tempo, whereas "Pick It Up" introduces an apparent R&B groove that's not unlike the territory previously explored on his 1997 studio album "Heavy Soul." A similar breed of electronic rhythm and blues is proudly featured on "Phoenix," before the effort climbs into a unique breed of assertive blues rock on "In The Car..." that's rounded out with twangy slide guitar and the incorporation of atmospheric synthesizer work.
Lyrics — 8
For a studio album that showcases such a broad variety of styles, Paul Weller clearly is aware of how to tie the end result together into one cohesive performance. This is once again the case here on "Saturns Pattern," where the veteran musician continuously delivers a range of solid high notes and mid-range singing that allows the actual musicianship to be at full display. Weller has never been one to engage in wild falsetto or deep growls, and it plays to the benefit of the album on "Saturns Pattern."
Overall Impression — 8
It isn't everyday that a respected musician is able to incorporate alternative rock, soul, R&B and hard rock onto a single studio album and somehow make the end result palatable, however this is exactly what Paul Weller does on his twelfth studio album "Saturns Pattern." Even when the album tends to occasionally drift into experimental territory, Weller keeps the end result from falling flat through his seasoned approach to the main microphone.