Saturday, October 10, 2020

MEET... The Style Council

What do you do when you’re a famous rock guitarist, but so desperately wish to escape the culture and egotism that comes with it? Have a strop on stage? Harass your bandmates? Drink yourself into oblivion? One thing you could do is start a new band. Start a new opportunity to create something that excites you. 

This is exactly what Paul Weller did after 10 years of being The Jam’s frontman began to grow tiring. The Style Council formed when Weller met future bandmate Mike Talbot, and both realised they shared a “...hatred of the rock myth and the rock culture". This disdain fuelled the eclectic mix of genres and styles the band approached, happily fluctuating between soulful ballads and funk-infused dance tunes, and just about everything else in between.

The band's first EP, simply entitled ‘Introducing The Style Council’, did exactly what it promised and more. The band offered the likes of stripped back acoustic songs like ‘Headstart for Happiness’, and a jazzier but similarly melancholic ‘The Paris Match’ - both early versions that bare the core emotions of each song gracefully. The undoubted highlight of the EP is the cult hit ‘Long Hot Summer’, a song that has stood the test of time beautifully. The slow ballad is available both as an extended mix, and a rather unusual spacy club mix (they clearly knew their audience) by Bert Bevans. Bevans also remixes a more upbeat duo of songs at the end of the record, finishing of the EP in exciting fashion.

The success of the EP (helped in part by the mystique created around the bands decision not release in the UK) allowed The Style Council to follow up with a short tour around the USA and a follow up debut ‘Cafe Bleu’. The debut contained reworkings of older songs (made to sound like they were recorded amongst the smoky haze of a late-night jazz club), and further hits for the band ‘You’re The Best Thing’ and ‘My Ever Changing Moods’. The debut proved the bands talent at shifting between different instruments with ease and finesse, with Talbot on keys and Weller manning the guitar, plus an array of other musicians adding all the extra flavour to the album. There were even some left field stylistic choices - the song ‘A Gospel’ is a straight up jazz infused hip-hop track with fun (and very eighties) verses by rapper Dizzy Hites.

The band peaked in popularity and critical acclaim with later album ‘Our Favourite Shop’, reaching number 1 in the UK charts immediately upon release. The album contained international hits ‘Walls Come Tumbling Down’ and ‘Shout To The Top’, and saw Weller experiment with his vocal styles, whilst adding new voices to the mix. The album meanders effortlessly from one track to the next, all the more impressive when there is so much stylistic variation happening.

The Style Council announced their disbanding in 1989. Not much is known regarding the reasons as to why the band split, but Weller later commented “It's something we should have done two or three years ago. We created some great music in our time, the effects of which won't be appreciated for some time.” Perhaps, like some of the best artists of our time, Weller knew when best to stop and smell the roses. It’s clear that he certainly knew the cultural significance of his band, and after all, too much of a good thing can later lead to stale music and repetitive ideas.

Despite not releasing any new music, The Style Council’s legacy has lived on. Many have reminisced about being around when the band's music was fresh, and many are discovering their music for the first time much later. Weller recently announced a compilation celebrating the discography of the band, packed with their greatest hits, hidden gems, unreleased tracks, and even demos. 

The compilation, ‘Long Hot Summers’, will be available from October 30 th , released through Polydor Records/UMC. It will undoubtedly be an essential for those wanting to get a comprehensive take on The Style Council, or even those just wanting take a leisurely stroll down memory lane.

- Huwen Edwards


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