New Release (Yep Roc)
From any other 55-year-old rocker a techno album would signal a later-life crisis. In Paul Weller’s case it’s just one of his regular moves to the next phase. While his first album in this vein (2010’s Wake Up The Nation) was a bit half-baked, Sonik Kicks delivers just what its title promises. In fact, pegging it as a techno album would sell it short, since there’s a broad palette of sounds here, including louder guitar than on most of his band albums. The big surprise is that he’s largely ditched the retro-soul leanings that have defined his solo career, replacing them with lots of Beatles and Bowie (think side one of Low), generous touches of psychedelia, even a Broadway-ish number (“Kling Klang”) that lifts Judy Garland’s “Trolley Song”. But for all its kicky sonics this is really a songwriter’s album — one that usually finds Weller in an exuberant mood, slinging hooks left and right. He slides into familiar soul-man mode for the finale, “Be Happy Children,” and given its topic — a song for his kids after he’s dead — it’s handled with a light and sure touch.
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