Trinity College, Dublin: Thursday 4th July, 2019.
Paul Weller has today announced he will perform an open-air show at The Trinity College Series on Thursday 4th July 2019.
The ‘Mod-father’ was recently voted ‘Best Act In The World’ by Q Magazine and sold out three shows at The Olympia Theatre last February. Last year saw the 40th Anniversary of Paul Weller’s first album, “In The City”, which he released with The Jam in May 1977. His new album ‘True Meanings’ heralded a four-star review in The Irish Times and is out now.
Paul Weller – True Meanings
‘True Meanings’ is an album characterised by grandiose-yet-delicate, lush orchestration: an aesthetic to which Paul Weller’s better-than-ever voice, singing some of his most nakedly honest words, is perfectly suited. A dreamy, peaceful, pastoral set of songs to get lost in, it is both an album that a lot of his faithful audience have been wanting him to make for a long time, and an album that many new people outside of that audience will relate to.
On the 25th May this year, Paul Weller turned 60: a milestone that has unquestionably had an impact on the feel, both lyrically and musically, of ‘True Meanings’. It is, he admits, a reflective album (“I allowed myself, with my impending sixtieth, to be reflective,” he says, “though I ain’t going to stay there too long with that!”). It is littered with lines about life, mortality, religion (‘Books’, on the latter, is a definite highlight), fatherhood, friendship, love and happiness: the sound of a man entirely comfortable and contented with where he is at six decades into his journey.
“I’ve been really comfortable with myself in the last ten years, I think,” Weller says. “In life, and just the way I make music. I’ve got a greater appreciation for it all, really. I used to worry about that thing of getting older and losing your creativity, losing the plot, but I haven’t found that. I’ve found the opposite.”
The genesis of ‘True Meanings’ – its title taken from the taster tune put out on the actual day of Weller’s 60th, ‘Aspects’ – began five or six years ago. Weller had a song – the waltzing, melancholic ‘Gravity’, comprised of just picked acoustic guitar, voice and now strings – that, he says, while obviously special, “just wouldn’t have fitted on to either ‘Saturns Pattern’ or ‘A Kind Revolution’. So I just put it to one side for a long time.”
In fact Weller actually played the song live a couple of times in 2013: proof positive that he was fully aware of its potential. Soon after this came a couple more songs in a not-dissimilar vein – ‘Glide’, ‘Old Castles’ – and all of a sudden Paul Weller had what he describes as “the cornerstone of a new record. After that I just purposely wrote more of those sort of songs for it, really: I started to stockpile things with that kind of simplicity, and I steered clear of trying to write anything too evolved, or any band-type tunes. I was chipping away at the writing of it for a couple of years, while the other records in that time were being made, and after they were done.”
All of which might make ‘True Meanings’ sound like it would end up being a solo album in the most literal sense: comprised of just a singer, his songs and his guitar. And in some ways it is, with strings often the only augmentation to this simple palette. But the paradox of the fourteenth Paul Weller album is that, as well as seemingly being the most singer-songwriter-style album he has ever made, it is also the most collaborative: with more guests than any record he’s been involved in before.
As well as all the members of Weller’s band, Rod Argent of the Zombies – creator of one of Paul’s favourite ever albums, 1968’s ‘Odessey & Oracle’ – provides Hammond organ on ‘The Soul Searchers’ and piano and Mellotron on ‘White Horses’; folk legends Martin Carthy and Danny Thompson add picked guitar and double bass respectively to ‘Come Along’; Little Barrie plays lead guitar on ‘Old Castles’; Lucy Rose sings backup on ‘Books’; ‘Movin’ On’ is the result of a “scratchy demo on my phone” that was sent to Tom Doyle of the White Label project. “I’m never, ever too proud to give a song over to someone else, to see what they might be able to bring to it: that’s what it’s about really,” Weller says. “I always want to see what people can add to my ideas. The older you get, and the more stuff you’ve done, the more important that is.”
Perhaps most surprisingly of all, especially given how personal and introspective ‘True Meanings’ feels, lyrics for four of the fourteen songs here were written, to Weller’s melodies, by others. Connor O’Brien from Villagers came up with the words to opener ‘The Soul Searchers’, while ‘Bowie’, ‘Wishing Well’ and the closing ‘White Horses’ are all the work, lyrically, of Erland Cooper from Erland & The Carnival. “Even in the writing, I get bored with my own sort of vocabulary after a while, you know?” Weller says of the process. “So I just wanted to give these songs out to some other people that I admire, and that I’ve wanted to work with. And I loved hearing what they came back with.”
Recording of ‘True Meanings’, once all the songs were written, was quick. The basic tracks took just three weeks at Paul Weller’s own Black Barn studios – not far from the house in Woking where he grew up – with the aforementioned, revolving cast of characters dropping in for a day here and there. The orchestration was added soon after, and that was that. It is always a good sign when the recording of an album is swift, and here you can just hear that the man at the centre of these songs is as focused and inspired – more inspired, even – than he has ever been.
Characteristically, though, Paul Weller is barely allowing himself a minute to celebrate, to rest on these new, not-yet-even-released laurels. When he says he already knows what the next album will sound like, and that that’s what he’s now thinking about, you believe him.
For now, though, we have ‘True Meanings’: a beautiful, unique Paul Weller album, and a beautiful, unique Paul Weller album that is as good – as great – as any he has ever made.