My opinion hasn’t wavered a whisker since I offered my thoughts on Paul Weller’s Fat Pop album in mid-May. I still hear it as a stack of 45s, all A-sides, that drop to the turntable in succession. They’re a diverse lot of strong songs, from straight-up rock to heavy soul, with the connective tissue being Weller’s weathered vocals. Some tracks sport sick beats, others plaintive melodies, and all circulate and percolate through the cosmos of the mind like a comet shooting through the galaxy. It’s a great set – my favorite of the year thus far, in fact.
The Fat Pop deluxe edition adds the metaphoric flip sides into the mix, plus an in-studio live set. Some may find it a bit much, but those who do likely never dug through record-shop bins in hopes of unearthing 45s or CD singles that featured non-album tracks on the B-side or as bonus tracks. Occasionally, a hidden gem – such as Weller’s “Everything Has a Price to Pay” from the “Above the Clouds” single – was found. Other times, an unexpected live treat – such as Weller’s take on CSNY’s “Ohio” or his merging of “Bull-Rush” with the Who’s “Magic Bus” – left you agog.
Although listed as Disc 3, I’m tackling Fat Pop – Bonus first because the songs remind me of those long-ago B-sides – not quite right for the album, but worthwhile all the same. A few were obviously left out due to a thematic or schematic similarity with other songs that made the album; if they’d been included, Fat Pop (Volume 1) would come across much more as True Meanings (Volume 2) than a distinct entity. “Round the Floor” and “Crowboy,” for instance, find him in a reflective mood – to quote a line from the former as way of example: “I used to think I was something special/it took so long to see I’m not.”
“Serafina” and “Into the Sea” navigate similar mid-tempo and slower territory. They sound great, but don’t fit the overall feel of the album. The same holds true for my favorite of the bonus material, “Pure Sound,” which echoes the Beatles “Revolution No. 1” in spots: “Until the day is done/until the war is won/until the war/is none…”
Its placement couldn’t be better, however, as it leads into “Fat Mix,” a 16-minute “Revolution No. 9”-like sound collage. I have no doubt that some folks will find it a highly indulgent exercise that goes nowhere, but for me and my ears, it’s a wild ride through a warm soundscape, as fascinating after the 15th listen as it was after the first. In a sense, it’s modern jazz by way of remix.
Disc 2, titled “Mid-Sömmer Musik,” is lifted from an online gig that Weller and his band (Steve Craddock, Andy Crofts, Steve Pilgrim, Tom Heel, Ben Gordelier and Jacko Peake) streamed last November, though the show itself was filmed in August. It features seven songs from last year’s On Sunset and three from Fat Pop and, as it’s a live album without an audience, will likely be heard by future generations as an artifact of the Pandemic Age. It’s a stellar performance, however, and a great listen when driving in the car. Fat Pop’s “Testify,” in which Weller and friends channel their inner Traffic, is one highlight:
For casual fans, the deluxe version is likely overkill, but the hardcore among us should enjoy it from start to finish. As I said up top, Fat Pop (Volume 1) is a great album on its own; the added material only ups the enjoyment factor. It’ll take you places. (It’s available on CD and vinyl and, as I just discovered, on Apple Music and Spotify.)
The track list: