Paul Weller Illumination

Those who argue that Paul Weller's career is built upon the rock of conservatism haven't paid close attention. Whether explicit (the Jam) or implicit (the Style Council), his catalogue - now spanning more than 25 years and hundreds of songs - is a document of fitful experimentation, an eternal process borne of wildly fluctuating self-belief and doubt, and a constant rage against the inevitability of aging as though it were death itself. If 2000's Heliocentric, the worst record of his life, was a necessarily bitter farewell to the youth he so romanticised, Illumination reveals Weller embracing middle-aged contentment more gracefully, yet powerfully, than most artists in memory. Featuring his most unashamedly cheerful songs since his classic 1991 solo debut (which, not coincidentally, was also a response to having been widely written off), it signals the beginning of a new phase in Weller's multi-storied journey - that of the avowed elder statesmen finally allowing himself to marvel at his good fortune and 40-plus years of experience. "Going Places," "Leafy Mysteries" and the title track rate among his very best; platitudinous at times, maybe, but bursting with a melodic verve that suggests hard-won joy. (Yep Roc)