Paul Weller has traveled a fascinating trend-bucking career arc since his debut with The Jam during Punk’s heyday in the late ’70s. When every other band was pursuing a gobsmacked, adrenaline-soaked and barely coherent version of Rock, Weller and The Jam were turning out their highly stylized spin on The Who’s Mod period.
When The Jam’s influence turned out pale imitators, Weller moved on to Style Council, a loungey R&B/Pop outfit that inspired a whole genre of similarly subdued purveyors. Weller’s subsequent solo career has been a pastiche of Brit Folk flavored Baroque Rock flecked with bits of the sonic personae that he’s championed over the past three decades, from the brilliant Traffic/Small Faces direction of his solo debut, 1992’s Wild Wood, to the Soul reflection of 2002’s Illumination to the edgy Punk Pop buzz of 2005’s As Is Now.
It seems hard to imagine but Weller is on a hot streak at the back end of a 35-year career; 2008’s 22 Dreams was on a fair number of critics’ year-end lists and 2010’s Wake Up the Nation was nominated for Britian’s Mercury Music Prize. To his credit, Weller’s approach to a new album resembles the first rule of Italian driving — what’s behind you doesn’t matter anymore.
So it is with his latest set, the diverse and energetic Sonik Kicks. The album lurches to life with the insistent and atmospheric “Green,” a squalling, blipping gene splice of The Buzzcocks and Muse, which leads into the tropical Pop bounce of “The Attic” and Weller’s Pop/Punk homage to Kurt Weill, the noisily melodic “Kling I Klang.” Weller returns to his acoustic direction on the gentle (and gently orchestrated) “By the Waters,” which he follows with “That Dangerous Age,” a track that Peter Gabriel would be amazed to find had nothing to do with him, and the six-and-a-half minute smoky Pop/Soul workout of “Study in Blue,” which deftly blends a lot of what has come before it.
Given the amazing breadth of Weller’s creative palette, perhaps his consistent versatility shouldn’t be such a surprise, but the incredible range and vitality of Sonik Kicks has the snap and spirit of an artist in the middle of his career, not nearing its 40th anniversary.
Tonight, dynamic Northern Kentucky group Kenny Peck & the Smoky Jack Band will celebrate the release of their new album, Country Jack, at the Thompson House in Newport.
Following up last year’s Naked Jack, which explored various forms of Pop/Rock, Country Jack focuses on the Country and Folk sides of Peck's schizo musical personality. Steeped in a vintage Roots style (and peppered with engaging lyrics that range from bittersweet to comedic), the new album includes some top-shelf local players, including Harold Kennedy, Bob Nyswonger, Lisa Biales, Marcos Sastre and Jeff Roberts, as well as a few musicians from Nashville, Tenn.
Peck grew up in Dixie Heights, Ky., and was drawn to the regional sounds of Bluegrass and Folk. Peck started writing and publishing songs in high school and college, before heading off to serve in Vietnam. Peck moved to San Diego after he was discharged and kicked off his music career with the original Smoky Jack Band in the early ’70s. From there, Peck played in various duos, including a comedy/musical act with his wife called The Special K. Peck settled in Greater Cincinnati in 1989 and continued writing and recording music. Naked Jack was his first album release in a dozen years.
Tonight's release party starts at 7 p.m. The $15 cover charge also includes a copy of the new album on CD.
Read more about Peck and find details on his releases at smokyjackband.com.