The Style Council. A stylish experiment sandwiched in the middle of The Jam and Paul Weller. Or a huge misstep in the career of a music icon. There as many opinions about this as there are Jam and Weller fans. Somehow, The Style Council has never been taken as seriously as Weller’s other two incarnations.
I personally am on the fence about this issue. While I am of the view that all The Style Council albums fall short for lack of focus and self-indulgence, there is no doubt that at least the early singles are as good as anything else Weller has produced before or after.
Long Hot Summers : The Story of The Style Council is the latest retrospective collection to challenge these diverse perceptions of the The Style Council era. I have always felt that the promise of early 80s music, was somewhat lost in the second half of that decade and the decline of The Style Council perfectly encapsulates that.
This 37-track 2-disc set seems to be a more palatable proposition than The Complete Adventures of The Style Council box (1998) which also included the forgettable unreleased final album, Modernism: A New Decade. Taken in its entirety, it became obvious that the complete works of the 80s outfit could not reasonably hold a candle to The Jam, as evidenced by the latter’s own successful box, Direction Reaction Creation.
Certainly, the main objection that diehard Weller fans have about TSC is the hard turn into jazzy R&B territory and the introduction of keyboardist Mick Talbot. That said, it was obvious in the final year of The Jam, that Weller wanted to make this shift in direction and thus, the move was inevitable.
For me, if you take out songs like “Shout to the Top” and “Walls Come Tumbling Down”, the softer R&B numbers (like “Long Hot Summer”) are easily digestible when positioned in between such genuine treasures like “Headstart for Happiness”, “My Ever Changing Moods” and “The Paris Match”.
So indeed Long Hot Summers makes a good case that The Style Council deserves its place as a full equal partner in the Weller oeuvre and not a historical footnote to be ignored. In fact, you might argue that there’s enough here (“Speak Like A Child”, and “You’re the Best Thing” for instance) to challenge the solo material that fuelled Weller’s second coming in the Britpop 90s.
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