With the eagerly anticipated release of his 16th solo album entitled Fat Pop (Volume 1), released via Polydor records on May 14th, it’s about time Paul Weller released a stinker, an album that could devise opinion in his audience such as when This Is The Modern World, The Orange Album or even Confessions Of A Pop Group were released, causing rifts between his followers who were not quite on the same wave length as the Woking Wonder. Maybe some want him to release a dodgy long player but as Weller has triumphantly echoed time and time again, his fire never goes out and it is such chorusing chimes that reverberate with this latest release.
This new album is far from a stinker, The Modfather is on some sort of tremendous musical escapade that’s seen him create alluring, impassioned, buoyant and cheerful music without bowing down to become an informal figure of the industry, far from it, Weller excites and compels time and time again with each release, Fat Pop continuing on from where 2020’s excellent On Sunset left off. Seemingly some good has come from 2020’s lockdown, Weller decided to keep working on new material rather than let his waistline expand, he’s enlarged his catalogue of lauded material with this latest effort.
Cosmic Fringes carries an anthemic electric shimmy in a similar tone to his 2011 single Starlite, however, instead of a soul edge the album opener edges closer to a dark Bowie type riff with a typically Weller lyric ‘I’m not a product of anything’, this carries a refreshing realism seen throughout his career, similar passion can be found on Back In The Fire, Scrape Away and A Stones Throw Away. Next up is an effortlessly upbeat guitar pop banger True featuring the youthful vocal talents of Lia Metcalfe, from The Mysterines, Metcalfe and Wellers voices fit together perfectly as they echo lyrics back and forth to one another, whilst a sax solo from Jacko Peake sounds like something lifted from The Small Faces reworking of Red Balloon.
Title track Fat Pop is a slow groover in a similar vein to The Lodgers, but instead of 80’s copycat beats there’s a deep funk bass line gliding the track along, as an acoustic guitar flickers throughout whilst a moog synth sends your mind in and out the speakers mid track, Weller’s lyric ‘who gives a f**k when no one else does’ sends a definitive message to anyone thinking this might be a lyricist who is scared to chop and change words to please his audience, he says what he wants when he wants.
My personal favourite track on the album is Shades Of Blue, unforgettably catchy as anything released on any Beatles album, Weller duets with his daughter Leah to achieve magical results, Leah’s angelic voice is a breath of freshly soul plucked air, the complete structure is touched by the hand of genius, this is how you exhibit perfectly emotions in song form. Glad Times is another dynamite tune, a live version played recently on BBC’s Later With Jools Holland had a certain heavier funk edge, the album version however is of a classier touch with an orchestra high up in the mix edging the track into a heavenly realm of excellence.
Cobwebs/Connections is a folk charged up acoustic number with faint similarities to That’s Entertainment and Illuminations track Going Places, but to shed new light on this tune it uplifts and enchants differently to those tunes, gleefully drifting and gliding into patterns of new found bliss. Testify is an unavoidably confession funk track with the wiry vocals of Amen Corners lead singer Andy Fairweather Low adding his instantly recognisable vocals to the funk fest. That Pleasure has Weller singing delicately, maybe, to his young children ‘How’s my baby boy, how’s your little sister’, whilst Failed has a charismatic blues beat, all tracks are excuses for the Weller band, namely Steve Cradock, Andy Crofts, Ben Gordelier and Tom van Heel, to dive into a subtle soul funk rhythm, his current band are as good if not better than any line up he’s had before, rivalling the hallowed line up of Cradock, Yolanda Charles, Steve White and Helen Turner, many of which are seen as the ultimate line up for Wellers solo years.
Moving Canvas is as exciting as Jumping Jack Flash, it has one of those swirling catchy Dear Prudence chords that revolves around and around the track, encouraging all within its view to join in and catch the fast charging soul train. In Better Time might be the hidden gem on the album, similar to Pink On White Walls, English Rose and The Boy Who Cried Wolf. A delicate orbiting pretty pattern guitar riff has a hint of encouraging overly addictive listening, repeatedly plays of this track are highly encouraged.
The stark message of Still Glides The Stream has a haunting quality, Wellers voice delves to the depths of its chords. Chiming keys and bare acoustics of the backing band bring the album to a close with Weller’s ‘look for greatness in the small’ being a spokesman for a generation type verse but he’s been there and done all of that nonsense. So let’s just say that he’s done it yet again, set off the fireworks now, because as we’re just coming out of the second lockdown it looks like Fat Pop will be released at the perfect time for everyone to inhale a breath of freshly Weller scented air. Nothing quite hits the spot like a Paul Weller album does, Fat Pop being the sort of medicine we all need at this time whilst the world revolves to an altogether different beat.
A number of different versions of Fat Pop can be found via Paul Weller’s website