"Weller's surprising but very welcome space-rock odyssey continues": Paul Weller continues the creative hot streak on the kaleidoscopic 66

Britpop's favourite grumpy uncle channels Bowie, Bacharach and Blur on 17th solo album

Paul Weller - 66 cover art
(Image: © Polydior)

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

Against the odds, Paul Weller has entered a liberating new creative phase over the past decade or so. Once the unchanging man, obstinate brand leader for rootsy Real Ale Rock, the former Jam and Style Council frontman has broadened his sonic horizons significantly on recent albums, making some of the most adventurous and kaleidoscopic music of his long career. Embracing lavish orchestration, experimental soundscapes, left-field collaborators and electronic textures, Weller seems to have finally twigged that the great flowering of 60s pop gave him a set of tools, not rules. 

Titled to reflect his upcoming landmark birthday, 66 sports a striking Pop Art cover painting by 91-year-old legend Peter Blake, his first for Weller since 1995’s Stanley Road. Lyrical and musical guests include Noel Gallagher, Bobby Gillespie, Suggs and Richard Hawley; there are enough familiar faces here to reassure Weller traditionalists. But 66 also prominently features younger talents including French art-pop producer Christophe Vaillant, electronic composer and string arranger Hannah Peel, and Brooklyn vocal trio Say She She.

Confirming Weller’s long-time role as unofficial uncle to the Gallagher brothers, Noel makes a vocal cameo on blues-rock chugger Jumble Queen, the most conventional track here. 

But the Modfather always had more musical common ground with their Britpop rivals Blur, a comparison that has only deepened as Weller’s latter-day albums leaned more into wistful, yearning, grainy-voiced English chamber-pop. There are certainly Blur-ish moments scattered across 66, from the tenderly crooned, lightly electronic psych-pop ballad Flying Fish, to the gorgeous Nothing, a jazzy romantic pastoral that sounds like Damon Albarn channelling Curtis Mayfield.

Quality levels are consistently high, with sublime finger-picked folk-pop reveries like I Woke Up nestled alongside sumptuous, harp-kissed, Bacharach-sized chansons like Rise Up Singing and Glimpse Of You. On the lushly orchestrated fairground-pop waltz My Best Friend’s Coat, Weller’s melismatic warble hits Marc Almond-ish levels of torrid melodrama at times. Meanwhile, the reverb-drenched avant-doo-wop swooner In Full Flight is one of the finest, and strangest, things he has ever recorded. 

From suburban Woking to the farther fringes of the pop cosmos, Weller’s surprising but very welcome space-rock odyssey continues.

Stephen Dalton

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.