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66 by Paul Weller Review: ‘…humbled by the majesty…’ of this album


Photo via Flickr, licenced under Creative Comms.


Few people wholeheartedly celebrate getting older, especially those in the music and other creative industries. This is not the case for Paul Weller. Celebrating turning 66, Weller has gifted us with an incredibly rich and diverse album, packed with soul and reflection. 


Starting with the artwork by Sir Peter Blake, a simple yet classic styling of blue and red borders on a dark navy background, makes the central focus the bold 66 painted in yellow and green. This throwback to classic 1960s pop-art reflects Paul’s personal interest in the style, as well as Blake’s contributions to multiple artists and albums in the same way. It’s a classic Blake album cover, as it provides a certain consistency with his other work for Weller, The Who, and The Beatles. 


Weller is often quoted in interviews as being fixated by Blake’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover as a child, an album he spent over a year saving up for. Blake’s album cover reflects Paul’s overall love of the 1960s, setting the tone for the album, since many of the songs reflect feelings of free expression and individualism that have become synonymous with the decade. 


The album begins with ‘Ship of Fools’, a delightful acoustic song that provides a gentle easing into the album. The acoustic guitar is accompanied by intertwined piano and woodwind melodies that give the song a calming feel. Contrasted by lyrics of people “All striving to be better than those other fishes,” perhaps a reflection on Weller’s wider view of contemporary society in which everyone seems locked in competition to out-do the other. 


The idea of water, the sea, and fish, continues into the next track ‘Flying Fish.’ By far a stand-out track on the album, it provides a beautifully rich sonic experience. Seemingly inspired by disco and soul, this song fuses with Paul’s more recent style that can be seen on other albums such as ‘Fat Pop’ and ‘On Sunset.’ The instrumental grows prior to the chorus, building suspense into a kaleidoscopic chorus, giving the song an unprecedented depth and vibrancy. The tune also features subtle guitar elements that contribute to the song’s traditional pop sound and provides a delightful outro to the song as Paul’s voice fades out singing the words “Look out, Look out,” perhaps a warning for the next track on the album…


‘Jumble Queen’ has music written by Weller, and lyrics by close friend Noel Gallagher. The first strikingly rock ‘n’ roll track on the album, the lyrics revolve around bluesy guitar riffs and Paul’s deep jazz-like voice. Together, it works: the result is a classic rock-pop guitar tune at a traditional two and a half minutes, and one that certainly deserves more airtime on the radio. 


‘Nothing’ can be described as one of Weller’s best love songs. The lyrics tell the story of two people falling in love, neither having a lot, but they do have each other. Reminiscent of past songs like ‘You’re the Best Thing’ and ‘You do Something to Me,’ ‘Nothing’ encapsulates that feeling of everything else outside of the two people in love being worth nothing. The music serves the lyrics in an incredibly elegant way as a brass section provides much of the melody to this neo-jazz style track. This track feels similarly at home both in the O2 Academy and a small speakeasy club in the back streets of Soho. Paul’s rich voice gives the song an air of authority as a man reflecting upon his experience in love. 


Further into the album, ‘Rise Up Singing’ greets us with swooning strings building up an atmospheric intro. A song of hope, Weller, with the help of backing vocals, gives a call for people to rise up, singing as they do so. The complementary nature of the string and brass section personify the hopeful and inspiring features of this track. The orchestral elements give the listener the sensation of belonging and togetherness as if they are a member of the orchestra themselves. 


A final stand-out tune from the album is ‘Soul Wandering.’ The song starts with a classic Weller guitar riff that continues throughout the track. Weller places particular emphasis on the lines “Soul Wandering, Still Searching…” Implying that even after his nearly five decades in the music industry, he is far from done. He finds himself still looking for more whether that be lyrically or sonically. Representative of Weller’s mod ethos, continuously moving forwards, never dwelling in the past and looking to the future for further inspiration. ‘Soul Wandering’ is an anthemic song, and Paul’s reflective lyrics act as a call to us as listeners to think of ourselves as a part of something bigger too. 


Overall, the album is Paul Weller at his finest. His use of orchestral arrangements alongside reflective lyricism puts this album up there with ‘Stanley Road’ and ‘True Meanings.’ Sonically, the album covers a diverse range of inspirations and emotions, from the disco-esque chorus of ‘Flying Fish’ to the subtle and romantic melodies of ‘Nothing.’ 66 is an album that will excite life-long Weller fans as well as brand new listeners. 


 

Edited by Julia Curry - Music Editor

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