Be glad he didn’t die before he got old
From his early days as a Mod revivalist swimming against the ’70s punk tide as the leader of The Jam, to his ’80s tenure as a neo-R&B stalwart in The Style Council, and beyond, Paul Weller has often come across as a self-righteous old soul in a younger man’s body. So while it comes as a mild shock to realize he really is old, happily, middle-age becomes him. Having hit the half-century mark, Weller seems surprisingly comfortable in his skin today, especially at the mic. He’s always relied on fervor rather than technical ability to sell his earnest songs, but now his slightly hoarse crooning feels less contrived and more genuine than ever before. His first album in three years, the likable 22 Dreams, offers a handy overview of Weller’s interests, highlighted by the sweeping orchestral grace of “Empty Ring” (which begs for a Joe Cocker cover): The swirling instrumental “Song for Alice,” a salute to late jazz great Alice Coltrane, guest-starring lovable Robert Wyatt on piano and trumpet; the melancholy piano ballad “Invisible”; and the pounding freak-rocker “Echoes Round the Sun,” co-written with Oasis’ Noel Gallagher, who contributes Mellotron. The 21-track epic only falls short only when Weller unveils a pretentious four-song suite featuring a spoken-word recitation on God and watery, Beatlesque psychedelia. Still, even this annoying misstep is heartening in a way, proving that Weller is far from becoming a lazy old fart.