Weller’s first soundtrack not only complements Jawbone, a semi-autobiographical Ken Loach-meets-Rocky Balboa tale of a former youth boxing champion rejoining the game ‘desperately in search of hope in all the wrong places’, its evocative moods even helped shape screenwriter and star Johnny Harris’s final script.
You should never underrate Weller. Jawbone is not only accomplished, it’s also occasionally stunning. Its opening track is 21-and-a-half minutes of twisting moods and soundscapes. Guitars feed back atmosphere, treated pianos possess, ambient drones paint mindscapes, cellos mourn, concrète found sounds drift in and out of focus. Eleven minutes in, pounding rock dissonance punctuates briefly, before the final four minutes feature one of Weller’s finest, richest, most mature and assured vocal performances to date.
Jimmy/Blackout may not be as prissy and mannered as the work we’ve come to expect from Scott Walker, but it’s most certainly punching at a similar weight. Elsewhere there’s the acoustic intimacy of The Ballad Of Jimmy McCabe (Weller’s vocal, once again, a revelation) and Bottle (vintage stuff and yet another highlight), Jawbone’s malevolent wah-wah groove, Jawbone Training with jabbing ride and punchy bass drum (and Ray Winstone, characteristically drowning in Lear-y gravitas), the audio-described inner turmoil of Man On Fire and barely controlled feedback-driven End Fight Sequence where time itself seems to drift into oblivion. Inspiring stuff that only points to ever more fascinating vistas for Weller to explore.