In which Malcolm gives his own slant on the latest Paul Weller chart-topper, in a week that saw the Woking wonder back on our screens for a brand new series of Later with Jools Holland.
From the moment thumping bass complements abrasive synth on gruff opener Green and gives rise to searing guitar, I have to marvel at Paul Weller’s Sonik Kicks.
I’ve had a few weeks to absorb PW’s latest masterpiece now, and this is no retro-fest. For every echo of a glorious musical past, Weller continues to evolve – as relevant to today’s audience as he was with The Jam back in the day.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t shades of the past here. There are plenty. But when those influences stretch back to Revolver-era Beatles and include hints of his own back catalogue, there’s no shame in that.
On Green, the guitars suggest In The Crowd, but there are more difficult to decipher influences on super-catchy The Attic and Kling I Klang, a statement of musical intent beautifully posted within three songs.
Weller belies his 50-plus years throughout, carrying on apace where he left off with more recent career highlights 22 Dreams and Wake Up The Nation. The instrumental bridges between the songs are somewhat reminiscent of the former – just on the right side of electronic and experimental – and help guide us from a frantic opening to more Style Council-friendly By the Waters.
If there’s any doubt that our man can still turn his hand to pop, That Dangerous Age – his answer to the myth of midlife crisis – follows, and before we know it we have a soulful duet with wife Hannah, Study In Blue, playing out in glorious retro-dub style.
The family links continue as Paul adds his own twist to his youngest daughter’s lyrics on a marvellously-brooding but dreamy Dragonfly, its bass riff getting under the skin as the song subtly builds.
The same goes for Syd Barrett tribute When Your Garden’s Overgrown, its early Pink Floyd, Move and Traffic influences to the fore. And a part-psychedelic pattern continues with Around The Lake, Drifters and further slow-builder Paperchase as we head for a glorious climax.
Then, just when you think you’ve got him sussed, the wondrous sign-off Be Happy Children – dedicated to his dad – has eldest daughter Leah sharing vocal duties, adding the sweetest soul sensibility to a ballad worthy of its Walker Brothers influence.
Perhaps that across-the-generations feel sums up Weller as he is in 2012. I’d like to think he’s still reaching out to new audiences. But while all the nods to the past are there – as ever – Paul is seemingly never in danger of becoming his own tribute act.
I wondered at one stage whether the Wild Wood and Stanley Road era marked the last of the high points in his glittering career. I’m not so sure now, these last three albums proving PW remains the creative force he always promised to be.