The Style Council

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The Style Council

Post by AdvertBreak » 28 Nov 2015, 17:02

Unlike The Jam, The Style Council are not one of the best bands ever, or even in their case of the 80s, but they sadly don't get the credit they deserve and remain underrated.

When The Jam ended with Beat Surrender in 1982, with its marvellous B-side cover of Move on Up, it was clear that they were pushing in a different direction. Still mod based, but soul music had now become Paul's passion. Plus those songs had tasteful saxophones. When The Style Council arrived, any mod connotation was removed and he was now an 80s popstar with strong interested in soul, jazz and even experimental music.

The first stuff (comprising mini album Introducing the Style Council) was fine pop music. Long Hot Summer is such a cool (as in 'cooool' song) and perhaps even my favourite song of theirs. When their first proper album Cafe Bleu came about, Paul and Mick had made an album that balanced soul and jazz influences with quite a bit of experimentalism. The album is pretty damn good, although strangely the singles are quite weak. The next album Our Favourite Shop ups the quality of Cafe Bleu. Still very much soul based with leanings to jazz (and occasionally experimentalism too), but it flows much better. This is definitely their best album.

And then the 'walls came tumbling down' (funny, as that its the last song on OFS). After a quite okay live album (yes, they were successfulin a live setting), The Cost of Loving continued the band's fortunes but its a bit dull, and I actually agree with critics there, but it is also isn't quite as bad as they think. Paul was now comfortable and this is arguably their least experimental abum despite going everywhere (the old soul and jazz, but also funk, rap, etc) The rap song (Right to Go) is a bit strange but it well reflects Paul's restless cramming of different influences. No, the rapping isn't by Paul. This is to The Cost of Loving and Paul Weller what Did You Do It? was to Erotica and Madonna.

Then...Confessions of a Pop Group. This was their Dazzle Ships/Don't Stand Me Down/Spirit of Eden curveball. The difference however is that, unlike those albums, it did not follow the band's best album, but rather their worst. The album was by far the band's most strange and its hard to nail down under just a few gernes. The album plays as two halves. One half is slick pop music with an arty bend to it, the other half is avant-garde on high with jazz, prog, abstract influences. Heck, it almost doesn't sound too far removed from the other unexpected avant-garde album from a former synthpop band with a slick white cover that year. Although that other album just so happens to be Spirit of Eden, one of the greatest albums ever and very influential, essentially giving birth to post-rock. Whereas Confessions of a Pop Group is considered to be a pile of shit by anyone outside the band's fanbase (who hold it very dearly). Weller fans treat it differently, some love it and some hate it. But it can't be quite a marmite album. I don't think its a masterpiece but I still like it quite a deal.

This was the end of the road for The Style Council, well, forcefully. They recorded one more album, Modernism: A New Decade, an actually pretty good document of the band's new influence in deep house music. The thought of Weller seeking out Trax Records 12"s is enough for anyone to want to check this out I can imagine. However, the label deemed it too uncommercial (or rather they were concerned that it wouldn't do anything to revive their fortunes after Confessions, which they were only allowed to do because The Cost of Loving charted well) so it wasn't released until 10 years later. Paul broke the band up and started a solo career of good enough trad music but without much attention to variety or experimenting, perhaps scarred by the backlash against the Style Council. [He has more recently decided to create exciting music though. 22 Dreams onwards.]

Sadly, no one ever decides to get into The Style Council but they are a band that have very good music. And it must be said that even the failures of their career are still interesting and worth checking out.

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Re: The Style Council

Post by Mallard No. 22 » 03 Dec 2015, 06:55

Very good write-up AB.

'My Ever Changing Moods' and 'You're The Best Thing' have remained popular singles ever since. Indeed, most of their singles were good, even the less well-known ones.

I haven't heard the last two albums, but by that time I suspect that the tide was turning against Weller commercially. It was not a good time for new wave-derived artists.

Dedicated fans (& the record company) would want more of the same from Weller. Those looking for house music and other new styles would seek it from elsewhere.

I am not sure that its endorsement by a pop band like the Style Council would have been well received. I think that such cutting-edge music would be more acceptable from an underground producer a decade younger than Weller, who was already well-known for other styles. It might be like Keith Richards going 'punk' in 1977. :)

After this, as you mention, Weller re-established a high profile during the 90s though in a 'traditional style'. It was palatable to his mainstream fans who like him were entering middle-age.
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Re: The Style Council

Post by AdvertBreak » 03 Dec 2015, 09:15

Mallard No. 22 wrote:Very good write-up AB.

'My Ever Changing Moods' and 'You're The Best Thing' have remained popular singles ever since. Indeed, most of their singles were good, even the less well-known ones.

I haven't heard the last two albums, but by that time I suspect that the tide was turning against Weller commercially. It was not a good time for new wave-derived artists.

Dedicated fans (& the record company) would want more of the same from Weller. Those looking for house music and other new styles would seek it from elsewhere.

I am not sure that its endorsement by a pop band like the Style Council would have been well received. I think that such cutting-edge music would be more acceptable from an underground producer a decade younger than Weller, who was already well-known for other styles. It might be like Keith Richards going 'punk' in 1977. :)

After this, as you mention, Weller re-established a high profile during the 90s though in a 'traditional style'. It was palatable to his mainstream fans who like him were entering middle-age.
It's nice some of their songs have remained 80s radio staples. There's also Shout to the Top, Long Hot Summer and Walls Come Tumbling Down in that respect.

But yeah, no one really wanted Weller to go off in all those directions after those hits. They may have thought it fun with The Style Council at first (Cafe Bleu is very varied, Our Favourite Shop even) but Confessions didn't quite deliver anything that Radio 1 would want to play. The pop songs not catchy or hooky enough to be hits. A complete turn around from the Weller of 10 years prior. Had Modernism being released, it would have been arguably the first foray of a former punk artist exploring house (rather than just electronic music), taking in obscure music influences no matter how successful the outcome was. Sadly though, the record company won over creative freedom. And to think Paul didn't really come out of his comfort zone for another 18 years is a bit sad. Not that his solo music was label-pressured, but rather just a case of deciding to stick to a formula that works.

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Re: The Style Council

Post by Mallard No. 22 » 08 Dec 2015, 06:25

Yes, Weller had always been on Polydor, but they dropped him in 1989 after refusing to release the final Style Council album.

I suppose that, as far as they were concerned, he was no longer potent. He would be regarded as a spent force by the majors, as indicated by Polydor's stance.

However, he seems to have been free to go solo with an independent and he went to Go! Discs. He would take a lot of his fanbase with him - they would be happy with 'traditional-type' songs because in entering middle-age new styles like house and indie/rave would be alienating to them.
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Re: The Style Council

Post by AdvertBreak » 09 Dec 2015, 04:02

Whilst I guess he was stung by both the commercial and critical failures of late Style Council, I'm not sure quite why he made a full 360 with his solo career. Modernism and his first solo album are as far away as each other as possible. Sure, Paul wanted to become popular again for making guitar music, but its ironic that his first commercial sounding album for some time and (arguably) least adventourous album to that point should be the first one away from Polydor. Go! Discs were independent after all and I'm presuming they probably signed him because he was Paul Weller-an iconic name enough-and (again presuming) would let him experiment there.

And that's why it's a bit strange he didn't really experiment again until 2008 (bar very small things like the horn sample in It's Written in the Stars), instead opting for a sticking formula. But I understand why. His solo albums were successful, both critically and commercially, so I guess that prompted him to keep on going the same. And even a subtle detour into jazz or soul is missing on his albums. Also worth noting is that he was a big influence on Britpop, and he was de facto Britpop in the 90s, so his sound stuck closely to the sound of the artists he was inspiring at the same time. I've seen the likes of The Changingman, Out of the Sinking and Peacock Suit on Britpop compilations.

I only like occasional songs by his solo career to be honest. It's a bit too bland a lot of the time. The likes of Wild Wood (the album) are very nice though, and Illumination has nice stuff. 22 Dreams, Wake Up the Nation and Sonic Kiks are my favourite albums, late career peaks that also flow in that order, working with an interesting array of musicians (from Graham to Kevin Shields) and experimenting a fair bit. I haven't heard the recent album though.

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Re: The Style Council

Post by Mallard No. 22 » 11 Dec 2015, 08:05

After the 'mis-fire' of the final Style Council album, it was probably evident that the major labels were indifferent to him.

At the time (early 90s) the direction of popular music was not at all clear. Paul was probably uncertain himself - the territory he had previously been in i.e. cutting-edge pop songs had been succeeded by producer-led house/rave. He had tried this himself but was not accepted - it was the domain of emerging new producers whose profile had an air of mystique.

He went back to stripped-down songs and in a low-key way maintained his fanbase. He became a stalwart in changing times. This was also compatible with the 'traditional-type' songs of indie & Britpop that were emerging.
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Re: The Style Council

Post by AdvertBreak » 13 Dec 2015, 01:21

True, but what leaves me surprsied is that he stuck with it for so long. Maybe buddying up with the likes of the notoriously trad-purists Noel Gallagher and Kelly Jones didn't help, on 2002's Illumination this is, an album that looks like it could be interesting from its album cover (makes me think of U2's Pop) but inside its almost entirely more of the same, if still pleasent.

Good job that Graham came along :D

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Re: The Style Council

Post by Mallard No. 22 » 15 Dec 2015, 08:05

He probably stuck with it so long because it worked :) When he had tried something radically different (i.e. 'Modernism') it was not accepted.
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Re: The Style Council

Post by AdvertBreak » 24 Dec 2015, 14:47

Intriguingly, this exists http://www.amazon.co.uk/Classic-Album-S ... B00CTJPEJM" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Remastered box set of all six of their albums, so that includes mini-LP (orginally an import) Introducing the Style Council, and even Modernism! And that's odd, because I didn't know it was available as its own album in the UK. When it was first available, it was part of their extensive Complete Adventures box set in 1998 as tracks 5-12 on disc 5.

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Re: The Style Council

Post by Mallard No. 22 » 30 Dec 2015, 19:45

Not a bad price on MP3.
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