- 14 May 21
Be Here Now
Weller doesn’t mess about. He was already working on this follow up to last year’s marvellous On Sunset while that record was still at the pressing plant, and there’s a fair possibility that, as the title suggests, this is only the first volume. “Old father tyme,” he sang on that last album, “you know that he don’t care” and if some sort of fear of the reaper is responsible for Weller’s refusal to sit back and relax then it is the listener who benefits most, because Fat Pop is every bit as adventurous - and satisfying - as his recent output.
He could be Bowie around about 1980, the "real gone kid" throwing shapes down the new wave disco in the kicking-off ‘Cosmic Fringes’, perhaps named for the place on the map where Weller’s aimed himself these last few years. ‘True’, a duet with Lia Metcalfe of the Mysterines, motors along in a similar fashion as trumpets sound in the background, and then it all veers off into café-bar parp, just because he can.
The title track is driven by bass, moog and silky soul guitar, and Weller himself could be the one “who’s never, ever let you down… who gives a fuck when no one else does” before he shoves the tape through an aural mangle for the middle eight. Daughter Leah joins her auld lad for a sing-along around the old Joanna on the instantly catchy ‘Shades Of Blue’, a song with melodies falling out of its pockets, with Weller still in the same good place he was on the last record - "You spend all your life, just to find out, all that matters, is close to you" - happy at home with the family, and fair play to him. The string-lead ‘Glad Times’ is even better again, as our man “keeps his head up, looking for the good times”.
The “can you see the good things in your life?” that opens the semi-acoustic ‘Cobweb /Connections’ continues the "I'm grand where I am, thanks" vibe, while the tune could, at a stretch, indicate what ‘That’s Entertainment’ would have sounded like had Weller been on the happy pills back in the day. ‘Testify’, with Amen Corner man Andy Fairweather Low and a tasty bit of flute and sax, maintains the stand up and get into it mood. If you were looking to nitpick, you might point out that this one possibly didn’t take much longer to write than it took to play, but it’s still pretty groovy, so what harm? He’s at it again on ‘That Pleasure’ – “get up and get involved” - as that crack band give it some smooth behind him while he asks the kids how they're keeping, and they carry it on with the head-nodding ‘Failed’ despite some self-doubt creeping unexpectedly into the lyrics.
‘Moving Canvas’ - about Iggy Pop, according to Stuart Clark, Esq. - builds on its riffing start to become a probable future live favourite, with everyone, including the horn section - and that's probably the caterers taking care of the handclaps - piling in, and ‘In Better Time’ is another of those mid-tempo pleasers, with a pleasant piano break, that he seems to be able to knock out with ease. The closing ‘Still Glides The Stream’ might be the best thing here; Weller sings over strings of a painter, painting scenes from dreams, whose art “wasn’t what his public wanted”. Perhaps he’s referring to himself, but let’s go back to the lyrics in that elbowing for space on the dance floor opener instead. “I just exist on my own… I’m not a product of anything” Who would want him any other way? Hold on, that same painter, after the scarf-waving chorus, now “knows what his public needed”. There, he must be talking about himself. Still the man.