July 3, 2020 Paul Weller – On Sunset (Album Review)
Born on May 25, 1958, in Sheerwater, Surrey, England, Paul Weller is a well-regarded luminary in the annals of British Alternative music. Prolific and proficient, he first stood out in the late 1970s as the leader of the Post-Punk band The Jam (“That’s Entertainment”) and then of the slicker Sophistipop duo The Style Council (“My Ever Changing Moods”).
In the 1990s, Weller ultimately embarked on a solo career that proved to be fruitful and influential, easily becoming a living legend in the then-fledging Britpop movement, alongside the likes of David Bowie (“‘Heroes'”), Morrissey (“Suedehead”), and Elvis Costello (“Oliver’s Army”). In his 30 years’ tenure as a lone sonic ranger, Weller has released 15 studio albums–from 1992’s eponymous debut offering to the newly unleashed On Sunset.
Released digitally Friday, July 3, 2020 and set for physical release July 31st via Verve Forecast, Weller’s new record is a cohesive 10-track affair. Although, it rides on the recharged trajectory of its triumvirate of predecessors–2015’s Saturns Pattern, 2017’s A Kind Revolution, and 2018’s True Meanings—On Sunset ups the notch stylistically–for it combines Electronic, Soul, and Orchestral Pop in a masterful stroke.
His fifteenth overall solo album, On Sunset opens with the shimmering, classy, Blue-Eyed Soul track “Mirror Ball.” This is then followed by the slow, funky groove of “Baptiste,” which welcomes Mick Talbot on Hammond organ–the other half of The Style Council. With the ensuing piano-adorned “Old Father Tyme” and ’60s Sunny Pop-sounding “Village,” Weller then conjures his inner soul and waxes nostalgia.
Weller then takes you to a different realm with the exotic and alluring “More,” featuring the French Singer Julie Gros of the band Le Superhomard and a Latin-inspired Classical guitar interlude. The guitar-led and percussive title-track then picks up pace and brightens the space.
Then there is “Equanimity” offering a change of mood and style–theatrical, Vaudeville, and carnivalesque–starring Slade’s Jim Lea on violin; it will fit well onto a playlist that includes Bowie’s “Uncle Arthur,” The Beatles’ “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” and Paul McCartney & Wings’ “Admiral Halsey.” The next track, “Walkin’,” further delves into the late-’60s and early-’70s horn-filled R&B regalia.
From the glorious past, Weller then returns the mesmerized listener to contemporary times–with the midtempo Worldbeat drone and Electronic fuzz of “Earth Beat,” this time guesting on vocals the U.S.-born singer Col3trane. Finally, Weller wraps up On Sunset with the beautifully orchestrated, bluesy Sophistipop ballad “Rockets.”
Punk, New Wave, Britpop and the other genres with which Weller has been associated may have long resided in the sidelines, at least in a commercial sense. However, the ever-driven, seasoned singer-songwriter/guitarist is yet to slow down and has managed to remain relevant. Although, On Sunset seems to emanate Weller’s being all ready to face his twilight, albeit proudly with a solid legacy. In the meantime, take the chance to bathe and bask in the afterglow of his music and freshness of this latest oeuvre. That is why Cryptic Rock gives On Sunset 4 out of 5 stars.