Songwriter, national treasure, and eternal mod Paul Weller, now 56, could have carved out a nice little niche career playing various mod incarnations forevermore after his Jam and Style Council years, but luckily for us was too restless and easily bored to do so. Like his previous two albums of surprises, Saturns Pattern is full of abrupt changes of style and pace (sometimes within the same song) and experiments in jazz, soul, funk, psychedelia, rock, and even a tinge of country. In fact, he now changes musical direction as frequently as a shorted-out Garmin sat-nav.
Although the album is not overtly astrologically themed, it can’t be a coincidence that Weller’s twelfth solo album is named after the harshest of planet influences, the one said to bring the bitter pill of growing up and needed maturity every 27 years. These songs sound like they came from the mind of a contented gentleman.
“White Sky” is full of spacey synth, bluesy riffs, and put-down lyrics before it settles down nicely. “Saturns Pattern” is multilayered with a jaunty, bouncy piano groove that provides a nod to ’60s hooks. The mysterious, laid-back, cool, and jazzy “These City Streets” evokes walking arm-in-arm through a moonlit, rainy urban landscape at two in the morning. “Long Time” and its crunchy Dr. Feelgood guitar chops and handclaps would not be out of place on either of Johnny Marr’s recent solo albums, while “I’m Where I Should Be” has enough of a wistful country vibe to be at home in a Jason Isbell (of Drive-By Truckers) set. ” “Going My Way,” another piano-heavy treat, is sweet and soothing, yet as uncomplicated and unexpected as a first kiss.
All in all Weller is worth following blindly down an unmarked musical street, just to see what happens next.