Tag: andy crofts

It’s A Shoe In: Northants gig guide Feb 26th – Mar 3rd

SHARKTEEH GRINDER + DEAD KIWIS + CROW + BADDREAMS + INDIFFERENT ENGINE Wednesday February 26th The Black Prince, Northampton Hardcore bands from Corby, France, Cambridge, and Birmingham. Doors 7.15pm, £5…

SHARKTEEH GRINDER + DEAD KIWIS + CROW + BADDREAMS + INDIFFERENT ENGINE
Wednesday February 26th
The Black Prince, Northampton
Hardcore bands from Corby, France, Cambridge, and Birmingham. Doors 7.15pm, £5 entry

BOB WHALE + DAN MCCARRY + JODI MCCARTHY + MEG SHIPMAN + CAMERON GRACE + HANNAH FAULKNER + WAX LYRICAL
Wednesday February 26th
The Golden Horse, Northampton
Ni Ni acoustic singer-songwriter sessions. From 8pm, free entry

ANDY CROFTS + VELVET ENGINE + JOE B. HUMBLED
Friday February 28th
The Black Prince, Northampton
A Northampton musical ledge [The Moons, Paul Weller, etc.] returns to an old haunt to play songs both old and new. Support from local singer-songwriters that are major talents in their own right. Doors 7.30pm, £9.50 tickets

FRANCISCO
Friday February 28th
The Pomfret Arms, Northampton
An intimate night of soulful originals by the Cousin Avi singer. Doors 8pm, £7 tickets

THE WAX LYRICAL SOUND + TRAGIC + L30 ROBINSON + JACK Vs HOTDOG
Friday February 28th
The Garibaldi Hotel, Northampton
Rap-rockers showcase new material, plus the punk trio, NN rap mainstay and the irreverent singer-songwriter. Doors 7.30pm, free entry

LUCY SHAW+ JACOB BRATHWAITE + RUSSELL HEYWORTH
Friday February 28th
The Lab, Northampton
Singer-songwriter and guitarist from Birmingham, plus similar NN talent too. Doors 7pm, free entry

THE BIG DIRTY + MOJO CITY REBELS + STONE PIT DRIVE
Friday February 28th
The King Billy, Northampton
From 8.30pm, free entry 

SPRING.FALL.SEA + DEAD FREQUENCY + BROKEN EMPIRE + DESCENDANT OF ODIN
Friday February 28th
Raff’s Bar, Wellingborough
Pop-punk from London and Daventry, plus metal from Oxford and viking death metal from Bedford. Doors 7pm, £5 entry

KING’S GAMBIT + GLOVE COMPARTMENT + DAVY POO + SHELLY CARE
Friday February 28th
Earls Barton Working Men’s Club
High-octane Norfamtun folkies, plus the solo project of keysman Anthony Shiels [“pop music for grown-ups”]. In the middle is the fingerpicking songwriter from Bedford, and the warm-up slot is reserved for a local songstress. Doors 8pm, £3 entry

THE COMMS
Saturday February 29th
The Garibaldi Hotel, Northampton [upstairs]
New indie rockers from ShoeTown reveal their shifted line-up. R U Indie tunes and lashings of fuzz for a Saturday night. Doors 8pm, free entry

NAILBREAKER + EX-PETS + THE PARKS DEPT
Saturday February 29th
The Garibaldi Hotel, Northampton [basement]
An evening of disgusting noises. Headliner plays a set of entirely new material [hopefully still in the digital hardcore vein]. Plus noise rock veterans, and “high frequency synths and groovy bangers” from electropunk Luke Farmer. Doors 8pm, free entry

RAY LEWIS
Saturday February 29th
The Deco, Northampton
One of the original Drifters , this show covers six decades of classics, such as ‘Under the Boardwalk’, ‘Kissing in the Back Row’, ‘On Broadway’, ‘Like Sister and Brother’. Doors 7.30pm, £25 tickets

LUNAXIS
Saturday February 29th
Hopmaster The Reserve, Rushden Lakes
Northampton folk-rock group play the snazzy new bar down at the Lakes. From 9pm, free entry

STEVIE JONES + CELINE ELLIS + ADAM DE SANTIS
Sunday March 1st
Hare and Hounds, Great Addington
Wildfire Sessions acoustic open mic with featured sets from the above. 4pm – 7.30pm, free entry

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New Music Friday: Andy Crofts

Andy Crofts is a name synonymous with the Northampton music scene: from those late-90s teenage days with Circa, through The Hi-Drivers and The On-Offs, to his current occupations with The…

Andy Crofts is a name synonymous with the Northampton music scene: from those late-90s teenage days with Circa, through The Hi-Drivers and The On-Offs, to his current occupations with The Moons, Paul Weller, and now some solo work. On the eve of his just-for-fun covers project and another solo tour New Boots asked him to take stock of his 2020 visions.

Hi Andy. How is your mood for 2020?
Well I’m actually feeling very positive and excited about the year. For the first time I’ve been seriously considering getting out there as a solo artist – I guess I feel a sense of anything can happen.

You did your first ever solo tour in December. How was the experience?
It was a real eye opener for me. I definitely got more confidence from it and learnt a lot in a small amount of time. I felt I needed to go back to basics and almost learn again. I never take for granted how lucky I am to work alongside one of my idols, but I feel to do music you have to appreciate the trip. I mean you can’t just expect to carry on from where you are without building more foundations. So this is where I’m at; starting again in small venues up and down the country. I guess it’s not a complete true start, as I have built some appreciation up from The Moons and Weller audience over he years. But going out alone with my guitar is as raw as I can be. I’m not hiding behind anything, and what you see is what you get.

Do you feel you can achieve something unique under your own banner now?
Yes I think so. Before I started The Moons I was gonna go for it alone, but felt I hadn’t earned it yet. I needed to get something going, so I started a band. Now, I’m at a stage where I think I’m ready. I guess some of it is a maturity thing, as you kinda naturally grow into this, but it’s also a necessity. I’m certainly not getting younger and I have many things in my head that I feel I need to do, such as go it alone. I’m actually very excited about it all to be honest. I love The Moons completely and the boys in the band and it’s certainly not me waving goodbye. It’s just me adding another chapter to my life. It no biggie in the grand scheme of life, but for me it’s something I must do next.
I have a good bunch of demos together that I think will be the songs for my first album but I need to get into a studio to record them. Time is something I do struggle with lately so I have to wait for a window to open and go for it ,if you know what I mean. It is gonna be great though and I can’t wait!

To see you join Paul Weller’s band on keys back in 2008 was a thrill. The bigger thrill was seeing you step forward to play a bigger role in the music, helping with arrangements, plus stepping out front /switching to bass in 2017. Has that deeper, creative involvement kept things fresh and exciting for you after all these years?
Paul has this ability of not making you feel like a hired hand or a spare part. He really involves us and listens to our opinions, and this is strong leadership on his behalf. I think he’s very particular about who he chooses in his band, and chose all of us for our own individual styles, so that together we can paint a bigger picture. Over the years I have personally put a lot of input into his albums and live shows and I’m pretty proud of that, but I respect him and am happy to be directed. When I think back to being a kid with a Weller poster on my wall who would have thought all of this was going to be my fate. Some would say I am lucky and yes I am I guess, but I’ve also worked and played hard over the years to earn this position. It is possible to make your luck.

The forthcoming covers album, The Boogloo Radio Sessions, tell us all about it. It comes out of the radio show, doesn’t it?
Ok so let me explain. As some of you may know I have my own weekly radio show on Boogalooradio.com in London. Boogaloo Radio is broadcast 24/7 from The Boogaloo pub in Highgate. Now with my show I came to an agreement with them that as I am never in one place for long enough that I would record my show from my own studio at home and if I can make it into the London studio I can. Over many weeks I did this thing in my show where I asked the listeners to choose a song for me to cover, and this became the ‘Crofty Covers’ section of my show. After having a pretty good response from people I thought it would be a waste to just let the recordings just disappear, so I thought I’d make them into a little album. I only wanted this to be digital as they are just covers, and I wanted it out faster.
Let me just say that this certainly is not meant to be my attempt at releasing my first solo record. Not in the slightest! This is just a bit of fun to be honest and fills a hole whilst I’m writing and recording songs and demos for my actual album. There are 15 songs on it and some of them were thrown in to give people their money’s worth. I’m not to hung up about it – it is there if people are interested. I renamed it The Boogaloo Radio Sessions as ‘Crofty Covers’ just sounds daft.

The Moons are coming back with a new album this year, Pocket Melodies, recorded at Abbey Road. 
I’ll go more into detail about the album another time, but all I can really say about this is time has not been on our side. Things have got in the way here and there, and have delayed the album like crazy. I’m kinda bored of telling people it’s gonna be out and then nothing happens. Ironically our favourite album recorded live at Abbey Road has become the hardest to finish. All I can say is that it will happen when it’s ready. It’s difficult to tour because of the Weller thing too, so The Moons are sort of stuck in limbo. Maybe we will just put our the album without a tour. Maybe we will only become a studio band. All the answers are in the air at the moment. The album will eventually be heard though, in some way or another.

How’s your view of Northampton now, from a distance?
Well even though I’m currently living down near Brighton my mother and my family are all still in Northampton, so I don’t really feel so far away. My honest thoughts though is that I do actually love Northampton, BUT – and a huge but – it has been seriously neglected. Boarded up shops, more homelessness, and in general just a lack of attention spent on the town centre. It really is a beautiful town, and it frustrates me to see this. The music and arts scene has always been the saviour of the town for me, and is still fighting strong. I’m really happy to see that silly Jesus centre disappear! That was a horrible cult eyesore, but has huge potential now. The town just needs some wise decisions I think. If I was in charge I would lower all shop rent in the town centre to give more independent shops are chance, as having more of a boutique style town would really benefit the town, making a cooler shopping atmosphere. This would include cleaning up the the place and just making it look pretty. Yes it may sound a minor issue but making the place attractive would attract visitors and certainly not more pound shops! Then I’d put more funding into helping the town’s creative people, as this has always been important for Northampton and I think is overlooked [this would include schools]. Last of all I would put funding into helping the homeless and giving them a chance to work or have accommodation. Kinda like a get-back-on-your-feet type thing that helps them fit into society with counselling and a clothing fund, to not feel alienated. No one knows their story, but they deserve a chance. There are good people working at the shelters, but with more help it could make more of a difference. Getting them off the streets into a warm place with a hot meal in their tummy is the priority!

Any musical tips for those just starting out?
The first thing I’d say is “play play play”! Keep playing and rehearsing with your friends. Hang out, have fun and keep rehearsing. Starting out in a band and hanging out with your mates are golden times that you cannot buy, and will be the foundation to everything. Once you have a band work on your songs and instrumentation. Get some local pub gigs. Make a little EP of your best songs, and sell them at your gigs. Be social on the internet, and make the most of it all. Upload regular videos of you performing even if it’s in your living room. Just make the effort for people to see. Get a good photoshoot and make sure you all look the part and not fresh out of the office. Contact local papers in the town for reviews or features, as I know personally that they support the arts in the town. Just treat everything you do as making new steps. Become the best you can be in Northamptonshire, and then take it to another town and the next and the next. If you’re good people will take notice. Just put the time in and don’t be half arsed about it. Just be yourself and don’t try and change you to be like a fashionable trend if you think that will help you “make it”. You yourself are much more priceless than any fad. Last of all: embrace the independent side of the music business. They days of the dream major record deal are dead, as they mainly sign crap and don’t care about developing artists. Make your own world and people will wanna be part of it.

Who are you currently digging?
Well doing my radio show I come across lots these days. So I’m just gonna list a few of them without going into to much detail. I really like the sound of these bands though:
Babe Rainbow
Juniore
Flamingods
Black Pumas
Creatures
Foxygen
La Femme
Jack Gardner
Sugar Candy Mountain
The Mysterines
I could go on but where would I stop! Doing my radio show I have found a new found love towards new music. For years I was so stuck into my old stuff that it closed my vision, but now the boundaries are down and I get excited about new music again. I just hope I can end up on people’s favourite lists in the future.

The Boogaloo Radio Sessions is released on all digital platforms March 2nd, and available for pre-order now from iTunes. Andy goes on another short tour later this month, beginning at Northampton’s Black Prince on Feb 28th. Tour tickets from www.andycrofts.com

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The New Boots Review Of 2018

It’s been a cracking 12 months for the Northants music scene, with musicians flying the flag for our county on a local, national, and international level. To celebrate, we’ve had…

It’s been a cracking 12 months for the Northants music scene, with musicians flying the flag for our county on a local, national, and international level.

To celebrate, we’ve had a run though of some of our favourite things this year. Before we get going, a quick caveat. We love all the acts we write about, but we can’t include everyone and talk about everything. If you or your favourite are not in there, just remember; there’s always next year…

So, without further ado here’s the ramblings of New Boots editors Phil Moore and David Jackson. Merry Christmas, and a prosperous New Year to all. [most photos by David Jackson]

SONG OF THE YEAR
Phil: “For me it’s Tom Grennan and ‘Barbed Wire’. Yes, Tom’s from Bedford but his backing band includes Northants musicians Danny Connors and Adam Gammage. Danny is a long-time local songwriter and musician and he co-wrote the single with Tom. I think it’s the best thing on his debut album Lighting Matches that came out earlier this year.”

Dave: “For me, it’s ‘The Modern Man’ by Ginger Snaps. Jay Brook has been putting out great records for years in Gingers Snaps, and with previous bands. I think ‘The Modern Man’ was an almost a perfect mix of what Ginger Snaps is about: great beats, scratching and guitar hook all rolled into one.”

Phil: “I also want to mention The Barratts‘ second comeback single from this year ‘The Garrison’. The band came back after a break from recording and that tune still has the essence of The Barratts but it’s moved the sound on with a bit of a harder edge. Luckily they’ve still got a brilliant way with a chorus.”

ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Phil: “This is a much harder category because we’ve had fewer albums out than singles, but the quality of those I’ve heard has been excellent. Three stood out most for me. Firstly Domino Blitz by Tim Muddiman & The Strange. It is a serious piece of art which he clearly put his heart and soul into. “It has a sort of Nick Cave / Tom Waits dark blues/noir rock feel, and has some great arrangements.

“Secondly Venus Fly Trap and Icon. This is possibly the best album they’ve done, which was a bit of a surprise. “It’s a diverse record with lots of memorable hooks, both guitar parts and vocal lines.

 
“It’s also worth mentioning P -Hex, who have been together for almost 30 years now and finally put out nan album, Quantum Funkanics, this year. I think they have previously not bothered to do an album because they thought they were predominantly a live act, but I’m glad they did because it is brilliant.”

Dave: “There’s not much I can add to what you’ve said, but the album I’ve probably listened to the most has also been Domino Blitz. I really enjoyed Tim’s previous record Paradise Runs Deeper so was looking forward to this one and it really didn’t disappoint. As you said, a great, dark bluesy record which I really rate. It was great to have him here this year playing some of those songs as well.”

BEST LIVE ACT
Dave: “Sharkteeth Grinder were one of the highlights at the Rocked Up Hootennany this summer, and one of the best local live bands I’ve seen this year. They were probably a band I saw photos of before hearing them live and knew they were someone I’d love.

“There’s a fantastic controlled chaos about them, and even with the disconnect of a main stage and barrier at the Hootenanny, Bobbo was out in the crowd, screaming his heart out putting everything into that performance. They’re just fantastic to watch live.”

Phil: “They refer to their performances as exhibitions and yes, they’re very passionate and seriously and in love what they do. They’ll play anywhere to anyone wherever there’s an audience. They’re one of the sincerest bands I’ve ever spoken to. If you like hardcore they’re absolutely a band for you.

“I’d also like to mention Karl Phillips and The Rejects. I’ve only seen Karl and krew a couple of times this year, but they are very tight and very entertaining. Karl has tons of personality, and the band went on a massive tour this year, which takes guts in this day and age. Each venue that books them seems to fall in love with them and want them back.

“More new songs in 2019 please Karl.”

EVENT OF THE YEAR
Dave: “I’ve just mentioned it, but the Rocked Up Hootenanny was amazing and without doubt one of my highlights of the year. What Marc Collins and the Rocked Up team and other promoters involved achieved in 2018 was fantastic. 

“The Hootenanny has been growing year by year and the ambition to create something on that scale has to be massively applauded.
“There was a fantastic mix of local and national touring acts and to get the final full show by Arcane Roots was as huge coup.

“Yeah, it was a bit windy, but it was a great day and the organisers did a great job of pulling together a really diverse day of music with rock, alternative and hip-hop across three stages. Hopefully, despite his pending move to Hamburg, Marc and the team will be back next year with another Hootenanny.”

Phil: “The event of the year for me has to be the return of Bauhaus – if only under the name of Peter Murphy and David J. “The pair hadn’t played Bauhaus material together in this town for 36 years and that in itself was a huge moment for Northampton – and they played two shows!

“I went to the first and it was fantastic tour de force. Their music, which was always visceral and revolutionary, sounded great and I feel it was a moment you had to revel in.”

Dave: “We also have to mention Twinfest, as each year it goes from strength to strength.
“It opened for the first time on the Thursday in the Guildhall’s Great Hall, which felt really special. It was a great opening night, and I hope they’re able to do something similar again next year.”

Phil: “The organisers were very on it this year, and utilised each of the venues really well. It’s a very small-scale organisation working on a small budget and they are maximising the results. All power to them for achieving that – I hope they can keep it up in the future.”

BEST TOURING ACT TO COME TO NORTHANTS
David: “I think it’s been another strong year for bands coming to the county, and for me a couple stick out. It was great to see post-hardcore legend and former Far frontman Jonah Matranga play all of Water & Solutions at the White Hart in Corby.

“Jonah seems to be over in the UK every couple of years and besides being one of the nicest guys his work rate is incredible. It was the first time I’d seen Jonah play with a band as he normally just tours acoustically. Rob Reeves from Run Your Tongue also deserves a ‘thanks’ for making that gig happen.

“My second choice would probably be Gary Numan at the Roadmender. When you look at the size of shows Numan is playing it was a real coup for Northampton to get a show. He’s still writing fantastic songs and his last couple of albums I think have been among the best of his career. Another mention must go to Tim Muddiman representing Northampton on bass for Numan.”

Phil: “It was a big, big deal for him to come and play a show that size and we’re lucky. I’m sure Tim helped make that happen.

“I’d like to pick Don Broco. They’ve had a massive year with their album Technologyand they’re playing to packed audiences. The Roadmender gig sold out almost immediately and they’re from the region so a big shout out must go to them for their amazing efforts and great live show.

“Also, The Lovely Eggs. One of my favourite DIY bands, who also came to the Roadmender. They’ve been growing year by year and are releasing quality albums and playing quality shows. The atmosphere at their gigs is always extremely friendly, and you feel like you’re part of their family. Which is apt, as they also bring their kid on tour as well!”

ACT OF THE YEAR
Dave: “I think there’s two we need to talk about here: Sarpa Salpa and slowthai.

“The Sarpa lads put in an incredible amount of work this year. They played more than 20 festivals, countless regular shows and supported some big acts along the way, while also headlining the MaNo-Musikfestival in Germany, playing to about 2,000 people.

“They’ve released a couple of great singles and filled venues across the region.”

Phil: “They’ve had a fantastic year and are the whole package really. “They’ve gigged their asses off and are a great representation of what you can achieve. We love them and will continue to support them as much as we can.

“Next for them, I think, is start to get getting more national press/radio exposure, and then we can expect big things beyond conquering the east Midlands.”

Dave: “Onto slowthai – who currently is gracing the cover of numerous major publications while featuring in a lot of ‘2019 hype’ lists.

Phil: “While he’s not been working the local scene as such,  he is very much a product of Northampton and is heading for the stars as we speak.

“2018 has been a phenomenal rise and breakthrough year for him. He’s put out a succession of riotous singles, and the snowball just keeps getting bigger and bigger. We may not see him locally much more, but he’s a guy with bucket loads of charm and we should all love him.”

FLYING THE FLAG – REPPING NORTHANTS AROUND THE GLOBE
Dave: “Billy Lockett. He’s had a hell of a year, hasn’t he. Seeing the ELO tour poster with his name on, playing every major stadium in the UK and Europe was great.

“I went to one of the London O2 Arena shows and it was incredible to see Billy’s name in lights either side of the stage, and the reaction he was getting from fans. It was only a few years ago it seems he was still trying to work out exactly who he wanted to be, trying different line-ups and formats and it all seems to have clicked this year for him.

“He’s released some cracking songs along the way as well.”

Phil: “This year was a real moment for him. I think you could tell how much it meant to him to come and fill the Royal back in May I really think now the sky is the limit for him.”

Dave: “We must also mention Alistair Wilkinson who has been playing drums with him as well.”

Phil: “Yeah, he’s a great guy with a lot of talent. He’s very in demand as a session drummer and I hope they continue to work together because it will really feel like a Northampton band then.”

Phil: “We’ve already mentioned Adam Gammage and Danny Connors playing with Tom Grennan, and it’s worth pointing out guys have been rehearsing at Stalkers Rehearsal Studio in Northampton. It’s amazing when you think we have top ten artists on our doorstep like that.

Greg Coulson is now playing keyboards in Spiritualized, which is fantastic for him, and you have to continually mention Ben Gordelier and Andy Crofts recording and playing with Paul Weller.

“Weller released his best album in years in 2018 with True Meanings, and they played some fantastic gigs. I’m looking forward to hearing more from them two next year with the return of The Moons.”

Dave: “There’s then also people we’ve previously discussed like Tim Muddiman touring across the world with Gary Numan.”

ONES TO WATCH IN 2019
Dave: “Two bands I’ve been really impressed with this year have been King Purple and The Keepers.

“It’s an interesting one, because both kinda occupy genres which aren’t my immediate ‘go to’. ‘Stuck In The Rough’ is a cracking tune and I know King Purple have been gaining a lot of traction. I’ve seen them a few times and every time they’ve really impressed.

“They’re clearly really talented guys and I hope they going to have a good 2019.

Phil: “I think their sound is very ‘now’ and a mixture of American and English influences and that always translates and travels quite well in this day and age.

Dave: “I met up with The Keepers recently and was very impressed with frontman Jordan’s drive and determination. He clearly knows exactly where he wants to take the band, and how he wants to achieve it.

“I just think with that drive and work ethic, they’re halfway there. They’ve got a good live show and are writing some good music.”

Phil: “I can see them getting better and better and I hope they get the support they deserve locally. They mix a few genres; there’s a bit of indie, psych and mod in there, and there’s enough going on in the pot there to satisfy anyone really.”

Phil: “I want to mention Weirdoe and That Joe Payne. “Weirdoe is a local rapper who seems to be a great character, and has built an impressive YouTube following. Aaron’s got some mad rhyming skills and his flow is always on point. His music is truthful, with some gallows humour, which inevitably brings [healthy] comparisons to Eminem.

“With Joe Payne – I think you are obligated to say ‘Joe Payne, former vocalist of The Enid‘ to give him some context! He left The Enid a couple of years ago now though. He already has fans and the press on his side from those times, he has a great voice and great piano skills. He’s got enough self-awareness to take everything with a pinch of salt, and that’s really important in this industry.

“Joe, and everyone else, New Boots hopes you have a kick-ass 2019.”

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Record review: Paul Weller ‘True Meanings’

PAUL WELLER True Meanings [Parlophone] He’s always been a hard worker, but still: these feel like prolific times for Weller. Working in continuous collaboration seems to fire him up, as…

PAUL WELLER
True Meanings [Parlophone]

He’s always been a hard worker, but still: these feel like prolific times for Weller. Working in continuous collaboration seems to fire him up, as this is his third album in 20 months. It’s a song from the first of those, ‘The Ballad Of Jimmy McCabe’ from his Jawbone soundtrack, which revealed a slight return to Weller’s folk balladeer side, after years of experimenting with the cutting up of rock this way and that. 

It was composing, a few years back, ‘Gravity’ – the lush, orchestrated, melancholic centre of True Meanings – that gave Weller the determination to construct an album in a far more bucolic style. ‘Gravity’ truly is a stunning, delicate 150 seconds of music, with an immaculate and precise string arrangement courtesy of decade-long sideman Andy Crofts. This sideman/woman influence is repeatedly important to this, his 14th solo album, as fairly demonstrated on bubbling opener ‘The Soul Searchers’: a modern string arrangement by the avant-garde musician Hannah Peel, multiple contributions from Villagers’ Conor O’ Brien, and an old-school Hammond solo by Rod Argent.

The album settles in well. Jazzer ‘Mayfly’ has a deft bluesy guitar solo from the former Jam guitarist Steve Brookes to enliven proceedings, whilst ‘Old Castles’ has a soul-stirring strings-assisted group arrangement that recalls his Heliocentric days back in the year 2000. ‘What Would He Say?’ is a lounge-shuffler that seems directed at the importance of keeping positive when bitterness is the easier option. It’s also the sole “The Moons track” on the album, as it unites bassist Crofts with Ben Gordelier on drums and Tom Heel on his Rhodes piano. Though the flugel horn solo means you aren’t mistaken who’s in charge!

‘Aspects’ is a serious piece of rumination, a Buddhist-like realisation of beauty/God coming from within. It’s a nod to Leonard Cohen and Cat Stevens, minor-chord patterns facing off with choral harmonies and swooping string lines. It also is, to put it bluntly, gorgeous, and worth the entry price alone. As the second half of the album begins there’s a couple of Erland Cooper [of prog-folkies Erland and the Carnival] collaborations that don’t quite hit the mark, and the album briefly drifts. Nothing to worry about though: here’s folk royalty Danny Thompson and Martin Carthy to breathe life into the ornate melody of ‘Come Along’, with Peel producing a fine Robert Kirby-style orchestral adjunction to some already heavily emotive moments in sound.

The last section of the album is a full of discovery, too. ‘Books’ adds sitar, Tampoura and Noel Gallagher on, er, pump organ to send us eastwards on a kaleidoscopic journey, whilst ‘Movin On’ has a lovely soaring vocal performance from the main man, who clearly still cares about what he has to deliver. ‘May Love Travel With You’ brings things around again: voice, guitar, and some widescreen Disney orchestration. Weller soundtracking your kids bedtime? Why not, he knows quite a bit about parenting. Closer ‘White Horses’ brings back Cooper, Argent and Gallagher for a finale that seals the deal: a fable about generosity directed at a younger audience, it’s a touching finish to an album that surprises throughout.

It was interesting to hear Weller dismiss last year’s well-received A Kind Revolution as merely “alright” in a recent issue of Mojo. Perhaps he knew how good the follow-up was going to be, and felt a moment of guilt. Maybe he was right though: whilst everyone has a different take on what the best Weller album/period is, True Meanings makes a robust case for being his best since his last 22 Dreams/Wake Up The Nation-era highpoint. Certainly there’s little doubt it will score high in many end of year polls.

Phil Moore

Live photo of Weller/Crofts by David Jackson

 

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