Paul Weller is another of those artists where the line between “critic” and “fan” is easily/completely blurred. You have to understand, I’ve been a student of Weller’s since I first heard In The City around the end of 1977 when I was 12 years old. One of my true musical heroes, I’ve followed his career from the start to the plunge of The Jam’s split and his stepping into The Style Council onto his (at first, slightly shaky) solo career. So I have highly personal opinions on everything I hear from him – and although More Modern Classics is a second compendium of his singles (from 2000 onward), I do have thoughts on the songs.
Of the 21 songs: the collection opens with the powerful “He’s The Keeper”, from 2000’s Heliocentric, a song written for/about the late, great Ronnie Lane (of The Small Faces/Faces, if you are not so informed) – from the same album came the beautiful and light “Sweet Pea, My Sweet Pea”. “From The Floorboards Up”, from 2005’s powerhouse As Is Now (one of Weller’s best, most solid solo albums) is a highlight and a great reminder of how much Weller knows how to still rock. “Wake Up The Nation” and “Fast Car/Slow Traffic” (featuring ex-Jam bass player Bruce Foxton) from 2010’s Wake Up The Nation are further highlights from another fine album; “The Attic” was the centerpiece/showstopper for me from 2012’s Sonik Kicks.
This album also contains four Weller singles-only releases: “Wild Blue Yonder”, “Starlite”, “Flame-Out!” and the exclusive to this collection “Brand New Toy”. There is no skimping on material here – there are a few singles that are missing (such as the very fine “Leafy Mysteries” single from 2002’s Illumination album) but all one has to do is sample from this offering and then work your way backwards through the man’s now-24 year solo career.
It’s 37 years since “In The City”; 32 years since Weller split The Jam and 31 since he introduced The Style Council. So a mere 14 years’ worth of singles compiled together from 7 albums in that time period can’t be all that bad. Unless you do the math and go back to 1998’s Modern Classics and get yourself the first four studio albums (ranging between 1992 and 1997 – there are also no less than three official live albums as well). Either way, Paul Weller is a legend – if for nothing else, then for his prodigious output.