The Jam inspired a generation of kids from nowhere towns to dare to dream and to do so while dressing well.
The Style Council drew Weller, and the people in his audience who were willing to listen, closer to the soul of the Modernist movement than The Jam ever did.
Then came the mid-point of the Paul Weller Movement and an attempt to blend the two previous Faces of Weller into one beautiful new mask.
The visions of Albion and the romance of “Wild Wood” gave us, arguably, the best Weller moment since “Cafe Bleu” in 1984…nearly twenty years earlier.
Incredibly he topped that with the near perfect “Stanley Road” which was tender, melodic, soulful and honest in ways he had never previously managed.
A career of near constant improvement and refinement had hit a high point.
Then along came “Heavy Soul”.
Out went the gentle heart and soft pulse of “Wild Wood” and “Stanley Road” and in came getting pissed with Noel Gallagher, lad culture, a mid-life crisis and one Neil Young album too many.
Almost every track is approached with a brutal, heavy, ugly, hand.
It is, at times, lumpen.
Consider “Brushed” which Weller obsessives will attempt to defend by calling it a “banger” or some such but which is, in truth, almost unlistenable…and not in a good way like a collection of Sonic Youth unreleased, experimental rock, prog, dirges. This is just a dirge.
“Heavy Soul” in both its parts stretches to nearly eight minutes and not one of them is worth listening to more than once. These are songs that should have been reserved for some anniversary release to convince completists to part with their cash. The fact that somebody decided to include them on the album is criminal. It isn’t possible to hit the “skip” button fast enough.
Songs that should have been delicate, fragile, careful, little gems are drowned in bass parts that somebody probably thought made them sound “groovy” or “soulful” but which, instead, stop you from actually listening to them properly. “As You Lean Into the Light” with the “Wild Wood” Weller would have been a thing of beauty…here it becomes a swampy mess.
It is true that “Peacock Suit” is great fun but the overall impression left on you at the end of “Heavy Soul” is that it has lived up to its title…your soul feels heavy. An awful air of disappointment settles on you and it doesn’t really lift until you manage to find your copy of “Walls Come Tumbling Down” and cleanse your sonic palate.