Paul Weller, Saturns Pattern - album review: exploratory, albeit within a constrained setting

12 solo albums down and he's still got it

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The Independent Culture

Though less sprawling and diverse than 22 Dreams and Wake Up the Nation, Saturns Pattern is just as exploratory, albeit within a more constrained setting, based tightly around Paul Weller’s core band.

That still affords plenty of room to manoeuvre, as “White Sky” proves. Coasting in on a swirl of ambient noise and backwards guitar, it suddenly acquires thunderous drums, burly bassline and snarling guitars, along with an extraordinary, distorted vocal: it’s more akin to a Jack White blast than Weller, although it’s uncertain to what extent that’s down to mixing duo Amorphous Androgynous, as they’re not involved elsewhere.

Things settle down a little thereafter, with more stolid song structures treated to subtle psychedelic embellishments: the prancing piano of the title-track is adorned with effect-strewn eddies of harmonica and keyboards, while ricocheting guitar effects and reverb expand the modest vibrato groove of “I’m Where I Should Be”.

Both tracks are positive expressions of progress, Weller advocating in “Saturns Pattern” that one should “Get up with a mind to get up, the time is all yours.” Likewise, the lightness in the psychedelic-soul celebration “Phoenix” suggests the title refers to the myth rather than the city.

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Paul Weller styling the mod look while promoting 'Saturn Patterns'

 

Weller’s magpie tendencies pay dividends: “In the Car” transforms from country-blues to glam-rock stomp, “These City Streets” adopts the psychedelic folk-rock textures of early Jefferson Airplane and Love’s Forever Changes, “Long Time” sounds like the Velvets discovering the blues, and the brooding organ and itchy guitar of “Pick It Up” recall “Season of the Witch”.

 

But the track which most displays Weller’s protean instincts is surely the lovely “Going My Way”, which starts as a piano ballad in Dennis Wilson style, then darts off to explore mellotronic pastoralism, jaunty piano and close-harmonies, as if tugged away by Dennis’s brother Brian.

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