So here's how it goes. It happens to most everyone. You get a little bit older, you start to retreat from the new and take solace in the old and the familiar. One would be very tempted to think that after a Nineties where Paul Weller did exactly that with albums like Stanley Road and Wild Wood, the 21st Century would be VERY MUCH the same. But Weller, ever the contrarian -- this is a man who wouldn't admit to liking David Bowie until five years ago and apparently threatened to disown his son for being a goth, after all -- went in the opposite direction. He threw himself into absorbing new sounds (Broadcast, krautrock, fringe electro) and letting it infect his last couple of albums. Consequently, his most recent recorded works have been unpredictable delights on par with the Style Council's wilder moments.
Sonic Kicks, aptly named since the whole album seems flushed with discovery and the inspired amateurism that comes from jumping outside of one's comfort zone, is another step in that "knight-of-faith" aesthetic direction. Weller pushes everything. He pushes his voice into new shapes, switches styles like he switches suits, indulges in all manner of electronic weirdness and wooshiness. The rockers are louder and fast (he even decides to go all-in with some trippy-ass Delia Derbyshire synthstrumentals), the ballads are more wracked and spare, and he even pulls a Stereolab with "Around the Lake." "That Dangerous Age" combines DooWop with synthpop!
Well, damn. He was so much older then; he's so much younger now.