Paul Weller Heliocentric

Despite the predominating edict that his comparatively soft Style Council work and brilliant '91 solo debut were the results of a failure of will, one could at least argue that the contrary nature of such music renders it the most genuinely defiant of Paul Weller's career. No matter, every criticism of complacency ever levelled at Weller is made manifest in Heliocentric, his fifth solo album. Infuriatingly, relentlessly dull, it suggests that Weller is not only dry of opinions and melodies, but disengaged from the very concept of fresh ideas. These ten songs are largely muted, impotent echoes of Weller's past triumphs, which, although always blatantly tributary, at least sounded as if they were performed out of some urgent desire. Here, the plodding "Back In The Fire" is the weightless grace of "Above The Clouds" (Paul Weller) made to grapple in the dirt; "A Whale's Tale" reprises a hint of Wildwood's title track in the service of a melody that never finds its focus. "There Is No Drinking, After You're Dead," ostensibly the album's only "heavy" track, is an atonal mess that recalls '97s "Brushed," itself one of Weller's all-time flimsiest efforts. Only in Robert Kirby's extraordinary string arrangement for the closing "Love-less" is any sort of beauty achieved, which Weller's insensitively guttural vocal almost usurps. The middle-aged malaise that his 25 years of music making has essentially rallied against now has Paul Weller in its grip. Don't be ashamed if you aren't ready to go down with him. (Island)