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Paul Weller's "Sonik Kicks" - Reviews From Pitchfork and The LA Times

From Pitchfork Media
By: Joe Tangari


Paul Weller is restless. I can't think of another way to explain his last three albums, each of which has found him casting outside his usual wheelhouse for material and producing excitingly eclectic records. Sonik Kicks is the latest of these, and it wears its search for new textures in its title. Weller does a lot more with electronic textures than usual here, though that doesn't mean he's gone and produced some kind of exploratory electronic album. Rather, he uses a lot of electronic toys and production tricks to goose the arrangements of what are otherwise pretty basic rock songs.

Weller doesn't have to do this. I think Americans can be forgiven for not realizing what a huge star he is in his native Britain, but he has laurels enough to rest on for the remainder of a career (his last two albums charted at No. 1 and 2 respectively in the UK). It could be argued that the Jam alone is laurel enough. That he still pushes himself is admirable and shows that he cares. That said, I'm not sure all the electronic window dressing is a good look for him, mostly because it is primarily window dressing. At best it helps things along a bit and at worst it's distracting, but I'm not sure there's a single song here that's made or broken by it.

"Dragonfly", for instance, is a strong song with a brisk tempo-- there's some nice, buzzy organ hanging back in the mix that gives it sting, and the airy production is good. But those little bubbly noises don't add up to anything. On lead single "That Dangerous Age", the electronic sheen does give an extra kick to the beat, but the song is really driven home by something much more old-fashioned: the fantastically catchy "shoo-woop!" backing vocals. Likewise, opener "Green" isn't much of a song, but it has a decent-enough pulse that it pulls you into the album. Honestly, if someone had played it for me blind, I might have guessed it was a middle-of-the-order track from a new Super Furry Animals LP.

In places, the production choices outright hinder the music. Late album tracks "Around the Lake" and the proggy "Drifters" would both benefit from less reverb, because their melodies don't hit as hard with so much watery echo. On the opposite end of the spectrum, though, is the six-and-a-half-minute "Study in Blue", a dub reggae excursion that works pretty well, especially contrasted with the relatively dry, folky "By the Waters", and the straightforward slam of "That Dangerous Age". Sonik Kicks is a good record, but it doesn't have the songwriting depth and range of its two predecessors, and as admirable as it is that Weller is still playing with his formula and searching for something new to do with it, the electronics here do the songs few favors.

From The LA Times
By: Ernest Hardy


Paul Weller doesn’t usually come to mind when pop’s great shape-shifters are listed. But his journey from seminal mod-punk band the Jam to the jazz/R&B-lite Style Council and then to prickly singer-songwriter surely qualifies him as a man who takes his makeovers very seriously. (The Style Council even made a foray into house music in 1989 on a never-released album that has attained cult status.)

As he settles into a role as elder statesman, he shows no sign of making categorization any easier.

Kicking off with assaultive drums, buzzing guitars, spacey synth lines and a lead vocal processed for an echo effect, on the first three songs -- "Green," "The Attic" and "Kling I Klang" -- "Sonik" swings from rock to new wave with a ferocious energy that’s also curiously detached. It’s not until everything slows down for the ballad "By the Waters" that classic Weller appears. Against a backdrop of gently plucked guitar backed with strings, he croons with a magnificent graininess about the need to simply sit and reflect.

His legendary wit appears on the self-deprecating "That Dangerous Age," about the quirks of middle age, and with the reggae-dub groove of "Study in Blue" the album almost hits its high-water mark." That distinction, though, might finally belong to album-closer "Be Happy Children," a father’s promise of eternal love, on which Weller taps into David Ruffin-style soul singing that is straight from the heart.


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