Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Paul Weller -- Fly Little Bird

The Jam was the most interesting and exciting band to come out of England in the Punk years. Yeah, that's what I said. It wasn't just Paul Weller-- while his songs and guitar work were great, Bruce Foxton's bass and Rick Buckler's drumming were the solid base and soul of The Jam upon which Paul could hang his guitar work and lyrics. And though I will always resent Paul for breaking up the Jam (Pauls seem to break up stuff -- Paul McCartney broke up the Beatles, and Paul broke up the Jewish movement of Jesus followers and created Christians as his solo project), I do see the point of Weller partisans who say it was better for Weller to see their best work was behind them and to quit on top, rather than do a slow, agonizing slide into mediocrity. I dunno. When he started The Style Council, I hated the sound and tuned out until a few years ago, when Illuminations came out. I then went and got the rest of his solo stuff. And now we have a new CD, As Is Now, so I am a happy guy.

While many artists of the 70s haven't aged that well physically or musically, Paul Weller has. He isn't trying to be the angry young man he was in the late 70s, when Peter Townsend (one of Paul's Big influences) met him and afterwards said something along the lines of "he's a tougher egg than I ever was." You can still tell Weller's agressive guitar work immediately (if you don't know The Jam but know Peter Gabriel -- it's Paul Weller playing guitar on "Through the Wire,") but he's grown out of his youthful mimicry of Townsend's early Who tricks. And while he's still political, but it's not the raw stuff of his younger years. Here's what he did roughly twenty years ago, on the Style Council song "Money Go Round"--

The good and righteous sing their hymns
The crimpoline dresses who have no sins
Christians by day, killers in war
The hypocrites who know what they're fighting for
Killing for peace, freedom and truth
But they're too old to go so they send the youth

Watch the money-go-round, watch the money-go-round
I don't think he was an astronaut
Watch the money-go-round, watch the money-go-round
I must insist - he was a Socialist!

Perhaps not evident from this snippet but obvious from the lyrics as a whole -- he's talking about Jesus. Now, I am a Socialist kind of guy, I see the world in Marxist terms unless I work really hard at it, but when I read the Jesus narratives, I don't think "Socialist!" But thank G-d, Paul Weller did.*

And here is a bit of "Savages" from his new CD--

Savages, you can dress it up,
give it a name and a fancy uniform,
and a flag to fly, to hide behind,
can you not see the truth that's on the ground?

You have no love--
it has all gone cold on you,
you never had it so you take it out on
those whose love is growing,
that's what you hate most when you're savages.

See how much calmer and introspective he is now? :-)

Anyway. Power to the People. Except the People who watch Desperate Housewives. Or Bill O'Reilly. Or listen to Air America. Or voted for Bush. Or who care more about an embryo than a live child. Or listen to music on the radio. Or who drive BMWs. Or who have bumper stickers on their cars. Oh, forget it. Power to ME! I'll be a good dictator. You'll see.

*Socialists in England have an interesting habit of trying to recasting old stuff in a Socialist light. Billy Bragg, in his wonderful album of Socialist anthems, The Internationale, does a gorgeous version of Blake's Jerusalem. And if you listen to it from a Socialist perspective, it can make sense that way, but I doubt it's what Blake intended.

1 comment:

SimonT said...

Great blog! Totally agree! Check out Bruce Foxton's new band, Casbah Club.

Cheers, ST