Paul Weller

Sonik Kicks

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Take the title of Sonik Kicks as literally as that of its predecessor, the galvanizing 2010 Wake Up the Nation. Sonik Kicks delivers upon its titular promise immediately, coming to life with the stuttering electronic pulse of "Green," which immediately sweeps into a brightly colored psychedelic chorus, one of many dense collages and sudden shifts Paul Weller offers on his 11th solo album. Some of this contains echoes of the sprawling, picturesque double-album 22 Dreams, the 2008 record that began his latter-day renaissance, but Weller is determined not to repeat himself on Sonik Kicks, pushing himself into startling fresh territory with abandon. What's striking about the record is how much mileage he gets by rearranging old tropes, finding freshness in familiar sounds twisted so heavily they no longer sound comfortable. Aside from a slight hint of Krautrock, filtered through Berlin-era Bowie, there's no unexpected new sound or style here, but Sonik Kicks vibrates with vitality, Weller and his co-producer Simon Dine finding unexpected connections and crevices within his signature vintage soul, mod rock, and progressive folk. As good as these songs are -- and they are, whether it's the sly self-laceration of "That Dangerous Age" or the gentle sway of "By the Waters" -- what truly defines Sonik Kicks is, well, its aural stimulation. This is a record that buzzes with ideas, it's giddy with the noise it makes, and once its initial rush fades away, it still has plenty to offer in substantive songs and sheer sonic pleasure.

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