Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Style Council

The Style Council

The Cost Of Loving (Polydor)

Melody Maker,  February 7th, 1987

by Simon Reynolds

A remarkable fellow, this Paul Weller. It's a strange journey he's made over the last decade, but stranger still is that he's managed to take the greater part of his audience along with him. Somehow he's managed to lead one of the most entrenched examples of playsafe rock consensus "forward" into (apparently) loving music that sounds just like Con Funk Shun, Rah Band, Loose Ends...

The problem is that Weller, ever earnest, has internalised too thoroughly the edict Rock Is Dead. For every past powerchord and epic gesture he now endeavours to atone, publicly, by the slavish imitation of the most slick and redundant aspects of contemporary black music. Once he believed The Jam was the true sound of "when you're young"; now he's "wised up", got hip to the fact that where the "real kids" are at is... Robbie Vincent, LWR, all the loathsome details of fake sophistication ("light those candles... open the freezer door").
Weller has simply transposed one "reality" of English suburbia for another, the smalltown smallness of 'English Rose', 'That's Entertainment', 'Smithers-Jones' (mod-derived), updated to a world of winebars and nightclubs. But is deference to "reality" such a good thing anyway? What exactly is of value or interest in this world of spivs, this nouveau riche Southern heartland of Thatcherism?
The Cost Of Loving sees Weller severing himself, finally, from the Sixties. The music is a surprisingly accurate imitation of that most toothless, spineless idiom, Brit-Funk... Philly pastiches, jazz-funk ballads, Street Sounds stuff... none of which approaches the real mindless ecstacy of disco. It's irretrievable naffness can be conveyed in only two words... Junior Giscombe. Songcraft, good intentions, the anxiety to avoid love clichés... all these are the very death of disco.
Worse still is when Weller attempts to remotivate the sound of Saturday Nite, make it bear the burden of his meaning well; for the music is born down by the grey spirit of New Society. I liked them more when The Style Council played with pop history, assembled their own fantasy of "perfect pop" out of Philly, Blue Note, Left Bank, Holland-Dozier-Holland.
Dear old Paul Weller. We're all on the same side. No doubt I'll be voting Labour with exactly the same mixture of dutiful resignation and frustration that there's no more incandescent alternative, as him. I even have a sneaking affection for the man. But the sad fact is that even if it is possible to achieve a co-incidence between desire and responsibility, ecstasy and concern, Weller is incapable of such a balance.
The problem is the fundamental modesty of his aspiration, of his person – those unvoluptuous good looks. Within The Redskins' drastically curtailed emotional range they worked, because there's a potential for romance in street fighting and revolution. But... how can you make the Labour Party seem exciting? That's the flaw in Red Wedge – their chiding logic of pragmatism ("as good as we'll get... let's face facts") is in fundamental antagonism to pop's intolerant utopianism.
On this album there's a track recorded with "homegrown" rappers The Dynamic Three; 'Right To Go' is a vote registration rap. It's dated, flailing and useless, hardly crucial or fresh (is there any more hopeless bandwagon than British soul and hip hop?) but the real problem is: how can you conceivably make trudging through the wet leaves and puddles to your local primary school, in order to tick a piece of paper in a polling booth, seem like a glamorous and dynamic act of self-realisation, or even solidarity? You can't.

This reissue also dedicated to Koushik Banerjea and Partha Banerjea - nuff respeck from "The Information Centre" ;)

1 comment:

koushik.banerjea said...

That's a bit naughty. Let it go, man.
On a serious note, 'Mick's Company' still conjures fond memories. Hair, sportswear knockoffs and something a little more fluid than Shaka.