Paul Weller has adopted a habit of having one album flow into the other, even if they’re a couple of years apart. So 2015’s Saturns Pattern provided the starting point for its follow-up, A Kind Revolution, which dropped Friday.
“There were a couple of songs that were — I won’t say left over from Saturns Pattern, but songs towards the end of making the last record that I came up with and we demoed but didn’t finish at the time,” Weller tells Billboard. “So they kind of act as a sort of cornerstone for the next record, I suppose. You try to find at least one or two songs that you feel really set the kind of standard or benchmark for the rest of it, that you have to match or surpass, and then the rest of it was done fairly quickly.”
For Weller and company, those linchpins were “New York” and “The Cranes Are Back,” the latter of which is “essentially an old gospel song” that underscores the soul flavor found throughout A Kind Revolution. “I was trying to write a song of hope, I suppose, some kind of hope for the world,” Weller explains. “In some cultures, the cranes coming back, any birds coming back, is a sign of good fortune, so I kind of used that atmosphere. And in London now, when I see mechanical cranes going up and building starting to happen and people spending money again, I see that as a rejuvenation or rebirth. So I kind of mixed the metaphor.”
But if a little hope in the present world climate seems out of character for the outspoken former leader of The Jam and The Style Council, rest assured that he’s none too happy about the state of those affairs. “What can I say? We were disappointed, man, a lot of people in America were disappointed as well,” Weller says of the election of U.S. President Donald Trump. “But people chose him; what can you say to that? We shall see. I don’t think there’s any world leaders I’d put any faith into. It’s a bit of a very sad time for people. When you think of Nelson Mandela or Dr. Martin Luther King or Mikhail Gorbachev, people who were pushing for the world to become more united and peaceful… there doesn’t seem to be any kind of united peace movement right now, just a world of extremes. It’s quite a scary time, really.”
That’s not something Weller addresses overtly on A Kind Revolution, however. “I don’t think it makes me want to write any political songs,” he explains. “I don’t think the answer’s in politics or religion. The answer is inside people themselves, really, which is a much bigger question. It’s not one person who’s going to lead us into the light. It’s going to have to come from us, so who knows what will happen or not?”
Also not factoring into A Kind Revolution — which features guests such as Boy George, members of The Strypes, PP Arnold and Madeline Bell — was Jawbone, Weller’s first film score, which came out earlier this year. “They’re two separate projects, even though I was working on both of them at the same time,” he says. “They’re very different, and I treated them differently as well. They didn’t really collide; the film soundtrack was more experimental stuff, all electronic, not really song-based, more mood and atmospheric. I’d love to do more of that, if it’s the right kind of film, if I got the right kind of offer, definitely.”
Weller begins a European tour to promote A Kind Revolution on May 30 in Germany, with a fall tour of North America starting Oct. 2-3 at Irving Plaza in New York City. The album and tour coincide with the 40th anniversary of the first Jam album and the 25th anniversary of Weller’s first solo effort, but he’s more interested in living in the present than the past.
“It doesn’t feel that long ’cause it’s gone so quickly,” Weller says. “Obviously, when I look back on it, yeah, that’s a long time. I would hope I’ve changed in that time; it would be pretty sad if I hadn’t. The only thing that’s the same is I’m still sitting in dressing rooms waiting to go onstage or in studios trying to write a song. That hasn’t changed too much in 40 years. But me as a person, I’ve changed considerably — hopefully, anyway. It’s nice to feel there’s been some sort of progress.”