From The Northwest Herald
“22 Dreams” (Yep Roc)
By BRYAN WAWZENEK
Why do musicians bother comparing their latest albums to past masterpieces? Has setting the bar high ever worked as a marketing ploy? As if listeners don’t instantly expect the “new ‘Born to Run’” is born to fail?
So when Paul Weller – the ex-Jam and Style Council leader, mod revivalist and British songwriting saint – compares his bloated “22 Dreams” to “Sgt. Pepper” and “Pet Sounds,” you know he’s in trouble.
Weller’s ninth solo album appears to have been designed to encompass every single type of music that the 50-year-old rocker enjoys. There’s folk and jazz, psychedelia and garage rock, instrumentals, some kraut-rock and a spoken word piece. Weller doesn’t like when music is put in “boxes,” so he’s unpacked everything.
Great if it works. Unfortunate that it doesn’t.
Although the music veteran loves to play in all these different genres, he’s only really good at a few. After starting out well, “22 Dreams” makes this painfully obvious when it begins to sag. The lyrics get basic and dull; the production becomes overdone or half-baked as Weller veers into piano ballads and maudlin jazz-pop. Doesn’t help that these songs are about heartbreak.
Weller clearly doesn’t feel as comfortable here. His grand writing style shrinks away from towns called malice and love that’s written in the stars. We’re left with “Cold Moments” and pure moods.
Yet, give the guy a guitar (a pristine acoustic or a fuzzed-out electric) and the kryptonite wears off. He’s back to running like the wind and sending his maximum R&B skyward to echo around the sun – with a little help from Oasis’ Noel Gallagher.
Every time “22 Dreams” begins to put you to sleep, Weller shakes you with a great tune. One of the best is “Where’er Ye Go,” a stirring Irish folk tribute from a traditional father to a son he thinks is strange. It’s proof that there’s a great folk and rock album buried in these 21 songs.
Weller wouldn’t want to hear that, and it’s understandable. If you put guys like Weller (Elvis Costello and David Byrne also come to mind) in their rock boxes, they would cease to be inspired artists. Let them out, and they often stray so far, you almost forget their greatness.
What to do? Take your cue from “Wher’er Ye Go”: “Wher’er ye go / then come back … bring with ye such stories / that we lose ourselves.”
And don’t forget to dream big, but leave “Sgt. Pepper” out of it.
Music Review: Paul Weller breaks his own mold with ’22 Dreams’
By SOLVEJ SCHOU | Associated Press Writer 2:50 PM EDT, July 21, 2008 Paul Weller, “22 Dreams” (Yep Roc)
Known as the Modfather in his native England, Paul Weller has sustained a successful musical career, careening from hit ’70s Mod revival band The Jam to ’80s group The Style Council and a Britpop solo stretch since the ’90s.
On “22 Dreams,” his ninth solo album, the stylishly coifed singer, songwriter and guitarist marks his 50th birthday with an ambitious, eclectic mix of 21 tracks, from the psychedelic “Echoes Round the Sun” to the classic piano-based soul of “Invisible” and minimalist electronica of “111.”
This is Weller at his most experimental in decades. Each song shifts genres, snapping Weller’s soulfully tuned voice from crooning to belting and back.
Produced by Simon Dine, “22 Dreams” shows that Weller, waist-deep in middle age, refuses to merely stick to his tried and true combo of guitar-fueled rock and folksy soul balladry.
“Light Nights” starts off the album with violin, cello and Steve Cradock’s 12-string guitar skirting along on a Mediterranean melody, followed directly by the horn-blaring stomp of the title track “22 Dreams.”
“Song for Alice,” a jazzy instrumental tribute to John Coltrane’s late widow, jazz performer Alice Coltrane, is awash in piano, trumpet and percussion. “Empty Ring” shimmers with R&B panache while “Push It Along” has a traditional rock swagger with atonal overtones. Weller reminisces on fatherhood on “Why Walk When You Can Run,” and delves into samba on the love tune “One Bright Star.” ”God,” a spoken-word track, is the album’s most random addition.
Throughout it all, Weller’s penchant for expertly scribed personal lyrics shines through.
“Those cold, cold moments/ Waiting for that girl to come/ Oh, she’s the one/ Got my hands deep in my pockets/ Trying to keep out of the rain,” he sings on the soulful “Cold Moments.”
Still handsome in those ’60s Fred Perry polo shirts, Weller may look the part of a Modfather, but he digs deeper on “22 Dreams.”
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: “Echoes Round the Sun” speeds into delicious psych-rock territory, with Weller backed by Oasis’ Noel Gallagher and Gem Archer. Weller’s voice, fuzzy with reverb, spins around groovy bass and guitar lines gritty with distortion, sure to be fun live.
Paul Weller Overreaches
By Michael Spies of The Village Voice
Wednesday, July 23rd 2008
Now roughly 30 years into his career, Paul Weller, the ex-Jam/ex–Style Council frontman, has always flaunted exemplary style and admirable ambition. But 22 Dreams, Weller’s ninth solo effort, is complete bollocks. In an exercise you could either call “ambitious” or “masturbatory,” Weller, with the help of producer Simon Dine and longtime collaborator Steve Craddock, attempts to pay homage to every sound that ever caught his ear, literally.
The result often sounds like parody. Thanks to Little Barrie’s blistering garage-blues guitar sound, the fast-paced title track comes close to feeling like actual rock ‘n’ roll, but far more prevalent is stuff like “One Bright Star”—a creepy faux-tango jam about a man in lust that falls well short of the mark. Many of these tunes, like “Black River” (featuring Blur guitarist Graham Coxon) and “Cold Moments,” are slow, suffocating, and oddly synthetic, centering on hazy harmonies and bland melodies.
It’s not just Weller’s edge that’s missing, though. Even his typical skill with classic soul has abandoned him: “Empty Ring” comes off as a bad Marvin Gaye impression. Worse is the four-song suite/grand finale, which begins with a spoken-word track entitled “God” (wherein Weller repeatedly intones, “Look at you and not at me”) and concludes with “Night Lights,” an ambient, atmospheric tune that sounds like a bad Discovery Channel score. Apparently, prolificacy can be as much a burden as a gift.
The Onion – AV Club
Reviewed by Jason Heller
July 22nd, 2008
A.V. Club Rating: C+
On 22 Dreams, Paul Weller indulges just about every genre he’s flirted with over the past 30 years—with the emphasis on “indulge.” With The Jam, The Style Council, and a mostly stellar solo career, Weller has dabbled in everything from punk and folk to jazz and house, all cemented by his trademark gritty R&B. Dreams starts out true to form with “Light Nights,” a Cat Stevens-esque raga full of smoky ghosts and fiddles that climb around him like vines.
It’s immediately followed by the disc’s title track, a rousing take on the classic Brit-rock perfected by Weller’s most enduring influence, Small Faces. It’s mostly downhill from there—and with 21 songs total, that’s quite a drop. “Black River” is cabaret jazz that strains to relax. “Push It Along” is a generic soul stomper that dry-humps the line between homage and pastiche. If 22 Dreams is Weller’s stab at a White Album, “111” is its “Revolution 9″—a synth collage that strives toward art in the worst possible way. Still, there’s a sense of fun and wonder to 22 Dreams that keeps it from feeling pretentious—just not any less tedious.
Weller’s last album, 2005’s invigorating As Is Now, was pumped out a mere year after its predecessor; if 22 Dreams is what happens when he takes a three-year break, here’s hoping his next one is a quickie.