PAUL WELLER “22 Dreams” Yep Roc/Island
Friday, September 12, 2008
PAUL WELLER turned 50 in May, and he celebrated by finishing up his equivalent of the Beatles’ “White Album,” a sprawling, 21-track montage of every style the British rock icon has ever employed, including the punk basics of his first band, the Jam, the retro-soul of his second band, the Style Council, and the folk rock, pop rock and psychedelic rock of his solo years. The new album, “22 Dreams,” even includes styles never before associated with Weller: spoken-word poetry, avant-garde space rock, electronica, chamber music and glosses on Elton John and David Bowie. It’s as if Weller wanted to revisit not only everything he’d ever done but also everything he hadn’t gotten around to yet.
The first single, the noisy psychedelic anthem “Echoes Round the Sun,” is a songwriting and recording collaboration with Oasis’s Noel Gallagher. But in this era of downloaded individual tracks, “22 Dreams” stubbornly insists on being heard as a total album. It begins with the dawning acoustic instruments of “Light Nights” and ends with the crashing rain and thunder of “Night Lights.” The CD booklet includes a prose fantasia by British poet Simon Armitage that purports to tie the 21 tunes together into a dream journey.
As one rides through this wildly varied sound scape — the horn-backed R&B of the title track, the catchy pop of “All I Wanna Do (Is Be With You)” and the piano balladry of “Invisible,” the funk-groove instrumental in tribute to jazz legend Alice Coltrane — it’s clear that Weller’s melodic craft and strong personality is behind every bit of music. Some numbers work better than others, but like Neil Young and Bob Dylan, Weller keeps reaching for new sounds and new challenges, and more often than not, he is grabbing hold of them.
— Geoffrey Himes (The Washington Post)
Appearing Saturday with the Rifles at the 9:30 club (202-265-0930,http://www.930.com). Doors open at 8 p.m.