31 May 2021 (released)
31 May 2021
During a live interview with BBC Radio 2’s Jo Whiley last Summer, Paul Weller was sharing his anguish of the then live music restrictions. He had a Number One album, On Sunset, and wanted nothing more than to be out there performing it. “For the first time in Forty Three years, I’m unemployed” he quipped. But It wasn’t a quip, he meant it. So rather than ponder the solution, he turned to what has been the ‘biggest friend in my life’: a song.
The result? Fat Pop: an episodic album of twelve songs which exist in isolation but are loosely connected to the theme. The opener, Cosmic Fringes has melancholic tones of classic Blur: crisp guitar, electronic rhythms and semi-tone shifts up and down. True is a different entity. A brash, in your face affair: think Small Faces meets The La’s with restraint in the verse dispatching a thumping ‘sha-la-la-la-la-la’ chorus. Liverpudlian Lia Metcalfe (of The Mysterines) doubles up on vocals here and they hit off nicely. The title track, Fat Pop, is quirky but significant as Its the motif for the whole album. Weller demands ‘Who’s been the light when the world’s been so dark?’ and the more you listen, the more it speaks to his musical faith: ’Who’s always there when you really need them?’
No surprise that the next song Shades of Blue is the first single release. A tick-tock intro with staccato Piano, there’s a hint of Stanley Road’s scuffling rhythm, rangy Guitar scales and Lia Metcalfe’s back again with a tasteful touch. Weller’s a big fan apparently. Next is Glad Times, arguably the strongest track, featuring a cameo from daughter Leah Weller, and explains why Conductor Jules Buckley selected this one to undergo a lavish orchestral reworking at the Barbican concert recently. If you caught me saying Glad Times was arguably the best, then I can attest to Testify being my favourite. An infectious 70s / Acid-Jazzy riff, flutters of flute and the feeling is way back, way back to his eponymous first solo LP with all that musical freedom. If his voice has lost some of its spring during the ageing process, its lost none of the soulful phrasing.
Fat Pop is best explained in Culinary terms, it’s the equivalent of a selection of tasty Tapas dishes. Each one created to provide the depth, complexity and unique flavour to standout. So pleased was he with the immediacy of this set of songs, he toyed with releasing them all as singles in advance of the album, but was talked out of it. Jan 'Stan' Kybert is back as Producer, Hannah Peel returns to deal with all things Strings, along with ParaOrchestra. Of course, it wouldn’t be the same without Guitarist Steve Craddock, who co-writes the emotive album closer, Still Glides The Stream. Overall Fat Pop is a brave project well executed, and with (Volume One) sitting underneath the title, it leaves the door wide open for more.
Follow Stuart Large on Twitter @boyaboutsound or Instagram @boyaboutsound