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.

Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
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.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week