Paul Weller: True Meanings

Paul Weller
True Meanings
(Warner Bros.)

Buy it at Amazon!

Welcome back, Paul Weller. Since stripping down his electronica-infused songs and releasing the grating As is Now in 2005, Weller’s subsequent albums have mostly tread discordant water.

His fourteenth studio is a 180, a lush, acoustic string-driven set of introspective ballads that bring to mind the melancholy musings of Tim Hardin’s compelling first album, Nick Drake’s atmospheric Five Leaves Left, and, in particular, Colin Blunstone’s tender One Year.

There are many memorable tracks. “The Soul Searchers” is bathed in shimmering strings, with a Rod Argent-like electric piano, trippy sythns and organ played by – Rod Argent! The bouncy “Mayfly” is highlighted by punchy horns; “What Would I Say?,” a laid-back shuffle, benefits from Herb Alpert soundalike solos by Chris Storr, and the soulful, atmospheric “Movin’ On,” has the same forlorn appeal as the Cranberries’ “Linger.”

The one mistake all artists make when they create wistful works is they muck it up with an uptempo number that sticks out like Bob Dylan singing AC/DC. Blunstone struggled to keep up with the pace of “Mary Won’t You Warm My Bed,” and Hardin attached a scuzzy backdoor Johnny sentiment to “Smugglin’ Man.” Weller’s missteps are “Come Along,” a lewd, immature baroque bumbler, and the maudlin mumbler “Bowie,” which seems to have more to do with Jim Bowie than David Bowie.

Grandiose? You bet, but True Meanings is also gorgeous. True Meanings is that rainy day album you’ve been waiting for all your life.

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