Album Review: Paul Weller, "22 Dreams" (Yep Roc)
For his ninth solo album, "22 Dreams," acclaimed English veteran singer-songwriter Paul Weller cranks out an unpredictable variety of musical styles, from classical, jazz and folk, to spoken word and abstract jams. Weller has been in the music industry more than 30 years, and his latest release proves to be one of his most ambitious yet.
Weller deliberately keeps listeners playing a what-next? guessing game, but the overall tone of "22 Dreams" is an imaginative, blissful, and, well, dream-like state. Not all of these songs, however, are of a mysterious, nocturnal nature. "Black River" floats along with springtime glee, carelessly following a light lounge-piano and a relaxed strumming or sliding guitar. "All I Want To Do (Is Be With You)" is the record’s most approachable, easy-going pop-rock tune; although "Have You Made Up Your Mind" is also in a top-40 adult contemporary mindset. These tracks have such mainstream appeal that it’s hard to believe they are on the same record as, say, the noisy, percussion-driven "Echoes Round The Sun" or the spooky instrumental buzzing of "111"--but then, it would be odd to hear most of these songs together on a single album.
Hardest to digest is "God," during which Aziz Ibrahim, formerly of the alt-rock band The Stone Roses, has a stream-of-consciousness rant with God. Ibrahim may have missed the mark with his effort, but some of the more impressive tracks involve other famed English artists that have been inspired by Weller, including Noel Gallagher and Gem Archer (Oasis), Steve Cradock (Ocean Colour Scene), Graham Coxon (Blur) and Little Barrie, a three-piece funk and blues band.
Although certainly delivering bang for buck, 21 songs can become exhausting, and by the last track this feels like an extremely long night. Lasting more than six minutes, the closing tune "Night Lights," has a meditative spa-quality that will either leave listeners feeling reflective and calm, or wishing they had insomnia.