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ADRIAN THRILLS reviews the Modfather’s new album True Meanings

Paul Weller has assumed a variety of guises in the 42 years since he first made his mark with The Jam.

A teenage firebrand who became a soul boy in The Style Council, his subsequent solo career cast him first as the godfather of Britpop and then as a restless, middle-aged musical explorer.

But even fans accustomed to his ever-changing moods will be surprised by his latest move — a collection of acoustic songs with delicate orchestrations and a pastoral feel.

Weller has touched on his rustic side before. There was a bucolic edge to The Jam’s English Rose and his solo hit Wild Wood, but he has never plunged as wholeheartedly into country life as he does here.

Paul Weller has tackled multiple genres with his writing for The Jam, The Style Council and his own solo projects


Crafted in his own Black Barn Studio in Surrey, his 14th solo album is a mellow affair.

It’s tempting to see True Meanings as the confessional work of an artist who turned 60 in May, a milestone that surely prompted Weller to pause and reflect.

The opening track here is titled The Soul Searchers; another song, Aspects, finds him striving to find ‘true meanings and patterns in things’. But this isn’t quite the soul-baring affair it seems. The words to The Soul Searchers were written by Conor O’Brien, of Dublin band Villagers, and another three of the 14 songs feature new lyrics (set to Weller’s tunes) by Scottish folk artist Erland Cooper, of The Magnetic North.

This feels like an intimate affair, but it’s actually a team outing. Amid the gently strummed and finger-picked guitars, some exquisite cameos add light and shade.

Keyboardist Rod Argent, of Sixties rock band The Zombies, adds Doors-like Hammond organ on The Soul Searchers, while folk guitarist Martin Carthy and double bassist Danny Thompson, once of Pentangle, enhance the ensemble feel on Come Along.

The shimmering orchestrations are exceptional throughout. There are passing nods to Weller’s fondness for R&B. A soul groove is fashioned from acoustic guitars on Mayfly, and the jazz-tinged Old Castles wouldn’t have sounded out of place on The Style Council’s Café Bleu.

As on 1995’s Stanley Road, there are references to the singer’s early years in Woking. On Gravity, he searches for ‘the child inside of me’. The softly sung Glide — there’s some serious crooning going on here — finds him remembering ‘the fears that kept you awake at night’.

Paul Weller was named  Songwriter of the Year at the ward GQ Men of the Year Awards, Dinner and Awards at the Tate Modern in London earlier this month

Paul Weller was named  Songwriter of the Year at the ward GQ Men of the Year Awards, Dinner and Awards at the Tate Modern in London earlier this month

Then again, as a father of eight whose youngest daughter, Nova, arrived only last year, he could be singing to his own children.

The album begins with the singer ‘head down with a furrowed brow’, but it ends in uplifting fashion with three pieces of grandly life-affirming music.

Movin’ On, a vivid description of a sunset that appears to be ‘painting itself’, is up there with Weller’s finest ballads. White Horses, with Argent on Mellotron, and May Love Travel With You are the work of a melodic master at the top of his game.

On 2008’s 22 Dreams and 2010’s Wake Up The Nation, Weller hurtled into his 50s on a wave of experimentation. He took detours into Argentinian tango and free-form jazz that were bold — if a little too try-hard.

This feels more honest, more unified. The Modfather isn’t in his pipe and slippers yet, but this is as far from The Jam’s Down In The Tube Station At Midnight as it’s possible to get.

n TRUE Meanings is out today. Paul Weller plays two orchestral concerts at the Royal Festival Hall, London, on October 11 and 12. See