RECORDS / Sound affects and hippy chic: Andy Gill on new releases from Paul Weller, Robert Cray and Sugar, and a three-volume history of West Coast rap

PAUL WELLER

Paul Weller

(Go] Discs 828 343)

AFTER YEARS of retro-mod stylings of one form or another, Paul Weller finally reaches 1967 and offers us his Ogdens Nut Gone Flake. And, you might think, about time too. On much of this debut solo album, he sounds as if he's just been fuddled with his first spliff, from the electronic bleeps of The Supremes' 'Reflections' swooning across the backdrop of the opener 'Uh Huh Oh Yeh' to the chiming psychedelic guitars of the finale 'Kosmos'. It sounds like a lot more fun than the average Jam or Style Council record - that stern-faced finger-wagging is at a minimum - but it's solipsistic fun, rather than collective, and too anchored in the singer's particular nostalgic leanings.

The album features that drift from the political to the philosophical that often afflicts solo debuts, as a songwriter casts about, after years of youthful certainty, for a deeper, less contingent meaning to life. The socially aware soulboy in him still has his say, but it's less didactic now, more mellow-aspirational in a Curtis Mayfield / Marvin Gaye manner on 'Above the Clouds', or completely hippy-dippy like late-period Sly Stone on 'Amongst Butterflies'. In places, the album sounds like it should be on the Talkin' Loud label, as Weller arranges the classic sounds of psychedelic soul - fuzz bass, wah- wah guitar, Fender Rhodes piano, flute - into a passable simulation of the real thing.

The gatefold sleeve photos are a bit clumsy, mind: there's Weller, decked out in granny glasses, polo-neck and love-beads, but still not managing a smile. This is the Post-Modern world, but what, ultimately, is so interesting about Weller's disinterment of the past? And should we hang around waiting for him to get beyond 1970?

ROBERT CRAY

I Was Warned

(Mercury 512 721)

DESPITE THE continued presence of the Memphis Horns, this album isn't as completely dominated by the Stax soul influence as its predecessor, Midnight Stroll, though the deep-soul pop of 'The Price I Pay' and 'A Whole Lotta Pride' matches anything from that LP. Once again, it's the blues by any other name, but in a variety of settings, the most striking of which is the elegant samba lilt of the title-track.

The bluesman's more diverse approaches here even include a kind of Dirty Mind-era Prince funk on 'Won the Battle', but capped with a knuckle-knotting guitar coda that's simply dazzling. There's a greater emphasis than before on Cray's nonpareil fretboard work, though not, thankfully, at the expense of the textural depth his band has developed over the last few albums. Cray's singing, meanwhile, just gets better and better, his phrasing impeccably shaded for maximum emotional impact on a song like 'He Don't Live Here Anymore', which, dealing as it does with paternal distance and death, is something of a new direction for him - although it could be said that this is just another case of his characteristic probing of the cracks in strained relationships.

SUGAR

Copper Blue

(Creation CRECD 129)

THE MOST surprising comeback of the year is that of former Husker Du frontman Bob Mould, whose solo albums had become increasingly, unlistenably miserable, but whose new power trio, Sugar, marks a sterling return to the form and melodic grunge-rock style he pioneered with his first group.

Compared to his introspective solo work, Copper Blue is cheery, outgoing and uplifting, a reflection perhaps of Mould's changed circumstances since he moved from bleak Minnesota to balmy Athens, Georgia. His guitar playing is as dense and dynamic as ever, but here it's in the service of chiming pop songs like the single 'Changes' and 'If I Can't Change Your Mind'. He remains open to influences - for 'A Good Idea', he takes several leaves out of The Pixies' book - though for the most part this is all his own work, rendered with a punkish enthusiasm that stands at odds with the prevailing nihilism of modern grunge-rock.

VARIOUS ARTISTS

West Coast Rap - The First Dynasty, Vols 1-3

(Excello CDSEWM 050/051/052)

ORIGINALLY LOOKED down upon by New York-fixated fans, Californian rap has risen to prominence over the last few years thanks largely to the violent sensationalism of NWA and, more recently, the headline-hogging Ice- T. The man who frightens even the LAPD is featured on these three volumes of early Eighties rap in primitive style, yet to acquire his sinister deadpan sneer on such hitherto hard-to-find tracks as 'The Coldest Rap', 'Body Rock' and the original gangster-rap '6 in the Mornin' '.

The foundations of NWA, too, are featured courtesy of a lacklustre track by The World Class Wrekin' Cru, which included a few future NWA members, while Kid Frost appears in pre-Hispanic rap guise on a couple of cuts. The dumb comedy raps of Bobby Jimmy & The Critters - titles like 'Big Butt' and 'We Like Ugly Women' - speak volumes of a time when rap was still considered a chucklesome novelty; they haven't aged half as well as the erotic raps of such as The Egyptian Lover, Uncle Jam's Army and Disco Daddy & Captain Rapp, whose 'Gigolo Rapp' (1981) lays claim to being the first-ever West Coast rap track. It's noticeable how much more benign these tracks are than later offerings from Los Angeles: apart from Toddy Tee's 'Batteram' - a reference to the crack-house- busting tank used by the LAPD - there's precious little violence. Quite the opposite, in fact: Captain Rapp's 'Bad Times (I Can't Stand It)', a catalogue of dystopian detail from 1983, contains what must be the first-ever mention of Aids in a song. It's the genre's 'Eve of Destruction', for what that's worth.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on