Album: Paul Weller

As Is Now, V2
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As Is Now picks up whereStudio 150 left off, using the same studio team of co-producer Jan "Stan" Kybert and engineer Joeri Saal, and applying the same spare, sinuous sound to Weller's best batch of new material in years. The first sign of this new focus came with the single "From the Floorboards Up", a tight, pared-back slice of brittle punk-pop that is, for me, his most accomplished work since the glory days of "Going Underground", but which failed to secure the attention of a public addicted to the lullaby teats of Blunt, Gray, Melua and their ilk. Too brusque and abrasive by far, no doubt.

That sparky, energised tone continues here on tracks like "Blink and You'll Miss It", a critique of a friend lacking the ability or desire to change, and "Come On/Let's Go", a general call to action - "Hanging round the corners, shouting at the top of your voice/ Sing, you little fuckers, sing like you have no choice" - in which the lack of any specific aim is regarded as a positive factor, not a shortcoming: "Come on baby, let's go/ You say, 'Where to?'/ I say, 'I don't know'". Unless we grab hold of our freedom and run with it - somewhere, anywhere - it might shrivel up and die, Weller seems to suggest. The same mood emanates from "From the Floorboards Up", in which the singer seeks illumination through the constant pursuit of change: "I get a feeling from the walls and chairs/ They turn me on to things that'll always be there/ All that is not will have to go back to dust".

Much of the rest of the album finds him in more reflective mood, pondering theological matters against a backdrop of piano, flute and choral backing vocals in "Pan", coming over all Pentangle in "All On a Misty Morning", and livening up a plaintive plea for peace with a reversed guitar break in "Fly Little Bird". It's Weller's most eclectic set since 2000'sHeliocentric, with pop and rock stylings sitting alongside jazz, funk and folk elements. "Bring Back the Funk" is a slick New Orleans workout with drummer Steve White; "Here's the Good News" rides a tack-piano riff reminiscent of "Oh You Pretty Things"; "I Wanna Make It Alright" is like a country heartbreaker built on a familiar Miles motif fromKind of Blue.

As Is Now offers a comprehensive picture of where Weller is now; whether he'll stay there long remains to be seen. In this kind of mood, he could be anywhere in another three years' time.

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