Paul Weller’s Saturns Pattern might have been Mojo Magazine’s album of the week, but it certainly isn’t mine. Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with it, in my view. No bad songs, just an aging musician hiding his years behind technology. Which is a shame; because artists of his vintage should really stick to what they do best, and that is pump out a few pastoral glories every now and then. Or perhaps one has to be stuck on a deserted island for a few years with only this album in order to fully appreciate its genius and brilliance. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Weller’s music, but all this keeping up with the technological Joneses gets a bit boring after a while, especially if one is listening to a wrinkly rock star still pretending to be relevant.
Having said all that, the album starts off strongly with “White Sky”, a psychedelic rock number that is a cross between Small Faces and Led Zeppelin. Plenty of phasing and more guitars coming out of the experimental woodwork than you can poke a psychoactive stick at. In other words, a fine track indeed. The title song sees Weller stretching out a bit, and while nothing special in itself, it does have some interesting moments, and is built around a decent melody at least. Let me put it this way, the more you listen, the more you hear. “Going My Way” has Weller channelling McCartney and Lennon, along with other 1960’s grooves. Done very nicely I might add, but nothing one hasn’t heard before.
Weller gets all hot and horny on “Long Time”, proving that men over fifty can still rock just like they did when they were eighteen. “Pick It Up” is the best song in my view, where Weller brings out the old rock and roll Ouija board and conjures up the spirit of Jack Bruce, not to mention a few other ancient ghosts as well. “I’m Where I Should Be” just gives me the irits. What’s next, disco? Fortunately things improve with the funky “Phoenix”, but not by much. It’s pretty cheesy, to the point where I couldn’t really give a shit what he’s singing about, whether it’s “The birds and the bees” or that pain in my knees when I get up to press the forward button. But before I do, out of the speakers I hear some meditative blues guitars, interspersed with some jazzy late night piano, and followed by a working class blues-rock rhythm section straight out of Woking.
“These City Streets” has Weller revisit his early R&B roots, and the sort of thing he does best. It’s a lovely inviting piece, like an open hearth on a freezing night. And when Weller sings “You’ve still got a way to go”, one gets the feeling that Weller himself has a way to go too. Because for an artist, the journey never ends. Creativity is a disease which can’t be placated, nor tempered by age or wealth. Whether one is a musician, a painter, or poet, matters not in the scheme of things. Just as sexual desire is one thing, artistic desire is another, and is the one quality which remains throughout an artist’s life.
Weller knows how to dig, and dig deep through his record collection. The man is a master craftsman when it comes to melody and dainty lyric. I’ll give him that. It’s just that this album has too much of a digital element for me. Where Wild Wood was all organic, Saturns Pattern comes across as too computerised, too silicon chip. As if we are listening to something being beamed back to us from a probe from the outer solar system. All I can say is that there are some terrific moments well worth listening to and revisiting from time to time, because there are riches here to be found, for sure. I guess that’s all an artist of Weller’s high calibre could ask for, or at least from a listener such as me. There’s a lot of soul happening here, it’s just a pity that it’s so silicon treated. Never mind, maybe one day Weller will once again pick up his acoustic guitar and play like he used to. No computers and no pretence. If Only.