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Paul Weller | True Meanings

The 60-year-old Modfather turns down and takes stock on his 26th album.

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Paul’s gone all quiet again. But there’s no cause for concern. Or complaint. He just turned 60 a few months back, you see. Anyone might take a minute to take stock — even former Jam and Style Council leader Paul Weller, one of the few remaining artists of his generation who is still a) healthy, b) working, and c) at the top of his artistic game. In The Modfather’s case, taking stock means putting aside his electric guitar, picking up an acoustic and devoting his 26th studio album True Meanings to wistful meditations and musings on life and mortality, love and family, the world and his place in it. Interestingly enough, they aren’t always his reflections; Villagers leader Conor O’Brien wrote the self-explanatory opener Soul Searchers and singer-songwriter Erland Cooper contributed words to three cuts. Not that you could tell based on Weller’s readings. But the disc is more than old-soul melancholia and unplugged nostalgia. While many of these numbers may be stripped down, they’re hardly stripped bare — they’re tastefully decorated with everything from orchestral strings to chirpy horns to subtle backbeats, sitars and even harmonium (played, oddly enough, by Noel Gallagher). It all serves to give the album a Nick Drake sensibility, without getting in the way of the sensitivity and sincerity on display. Nor does it prevent Weller from toying stylistically with jazz, soul, and T-Rexish boogie over the course of the 14-song set (which swells to 19 in the deluxe edition featuring remixes and instrumental versions). Granted, the one thing True Meanings does not do is rock out. But knowing the restless spirit that continues to drive Weller, we probably won’t have to wait too long for that.