Review: Paul Weller’s shiny ‘On Sunset’ a carnival of sounds

Paul Weller, “On Sunset” (Verve Forecast)

Paul Weller’s “On Sunset” is a rapturous collection, filled to the brim with a carnival of sounds that finds inspiration in decades past while occasionally stepping into something new.

Weller’s 15th solo effort has more of The Style Council than The Jam, his two former bands, and clearly feels of a kind with the string of albums he’s been releasing since 2008’s “22 Dreams,” chipping and stretching the mold without breaking it.

At over seven minutes, opening cut “Mirror Ball” would suit a dance marathon, an homage to the dance floor that ventures outside the nightclub to found sounds, returns with a layer cake of vocal harmonies and drifts off with a hazy music-box piano that marks a transition to dreamland.

“Baptiste” is one of three tracks — along with “Village” and “Walkin’” — featuring The Style Council’s Mick Talbot on Hammond organ, and they carry that band’s trademark dedication to soul music.

“More,” about the futility of excessive and unending desire, gets its message across by featuring a few lines in French as well as a flute and a backward flute, a less-is-more-but-more-is-even-more approach crowned by an extended fade with horns, strings and alternating guitar licks.

The title tune enters to the sound of waves and a faintly “My Sweet Lord” guitar strum, adding other sounds of the early ’70s while adhering to the album’s leitmotif of simplicity and rejuvenation, albeit amid deep nostalgia and the acknowledgement of time’s unstoppable advance.

The latter sentiment is clear also on “Old Father Tyme” and “Equanimity,” whose basic piano and guitar yield to an uncharacteristic but expressive violin solo and a horn section.

Closer “Rockets” may partly be a David Bowie tribute, with Weller later lashing out at the systems and institutions we’re caught up in but which provide plenty for opportunities for some.

Weller’s soulfulness and gift for memorable melodies across “On Sunset,” plus his ability to slide between genres without blurring his commitment to quality, make him a specialist in many styles.

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