Paul Weller: Days Of Speed

Paul Weller: Days Of Speed

Paul Weller's recent solo work has received a chilly critical reception in comparison to the material he produced as leader of the blue-eyed-soul group The Style Council and the moddish punk band The Jam. But if nothing else, his new live album Days Of Speed proves that his '90s solo albums have been underrated. The blend of gruffness and grooviness that's been Weller's trademark since he began snarling out youth anthems in the late '70s has mellowed into a refined smoke, curling through songs that unify melody and atmosphere. Even stripped to an acoustic guitar and Weller's deep growl—without the thick bass and machine-gun drums that accompanied it on Stanley Road—"Out Of The Sinking" swings easily from hook to hook, setting a mood in which the lyrical pining for escape is made manifest. Similarly, the Heavy Soul highlight "Science" gets brought down to the basics of self-actualization set to funky guitar, with Weller strumming on muted strings mid-song for added texture. Days Of Speed doesn't offer the best introduction to Weller for those who've ignored him for the past 10 years, because without the rock-band orchestrations, his tendency toward hazy drift becomes less easygoing and more shapeless. Weller's past decade of music admittedly lacks the immediate snap of Jam standards like "That's Entertainment" or "Town Called Malice" (both performed here), but the continued use of British local color and sing-songy tunes provides a link between his acerbic origins and the sweeter contemplation of "Above The Clouds," on which Weller seems blissfully willing to let his voice, his guitar work, and his whole sonic persona dissipate into the air.

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