The Style Council: Classic or Dud?

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed
For me they're arguably the most underrated chartpop act of the 80s and the only one of Weller's incarnations for which I have much time, but I get the impression they're still perceived as something of a joke in many circles, and they seem to be missed out of a lot of 80s revivals both from the mainstream and leftfield. Any thoughts?

Robin Carmody, Wednesday, 25 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

They were a definite background soundtrack here in Australia at the time. But listening to them again is mostly painfull except for a track or 2 - not as painfull as listening to Sade's record, though.

philT, Wednesday, 25 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I still love "Long Hot Summer" (and its corny but poignant sleeve notes). However a lot of their stuff is irritating to me because it tries to be funky but isn't very good at it, and because Weller's voice can be jarring.

David, Wednesday, 25 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

They were terrible! Even Weller's solo stuff is better....

Eamonn, Wednesday, 25 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Tim from Orlando wrote an article making the case for them when the box set came out. Sadly, he neglected to explain their crapness. Mind you, if Paul Weller had continued bleaching his hair and acting like a pop tart instead of a cat-strangle wailing elder figure of Britpop, the world would be a MUCH better place.

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 25 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I wish The Style Council was a real branch of government, and not a band name. "The Style Council recommended today that President Bush sign a declaration into law banning white pants today, pointing out that you can completely see women's underwear or lack thereof underneath such garments."

But as a band, dud. Paul Weller just really makes me ill, something about him bothers me greatly. It doesn't excite me and unfortunately that's the only way I can describe it.

Ally, Wednesday, 25 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

All that "Shout to the Top" stuff was at least, umm, tolerable at the time, ie. not the worst. Songs okay, vocals good. But mostly I just remember Mick Talbot (sp?) looking very earnest and sweaty as he pumped at his piano keys. Erk... not pleasant.

AP, Wednesday, 25 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I have a huge fucking grudge against Weller and all he has spawned (aside from his obvious crapulousness I have other personal reasons), so I must condemn them to dud status despite a couple of nice singles.

Nicole, Thursday, 26 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

The Jam were great, but I never liked the Style Council. They always seemed one step removed from disco, to me. Even as a kiddle I knew there was something wrong with that.

Sean Carruthers, Thursday, 26 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

The Jam were shite, The Style Council were shite and Paul Wanker solo is shite.

Omar, Thursday, 26 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Indeed. Anything involving that self-righteous smug muso twat from Woking is unutterably shite by definition.

Richard Tunnicliffe, Thursday, 26 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

God knows I don't want to defend the old modfather, but why exactly is he a 'muso'? Because he knows a lot about old records? Because he plays the guitar? What exactly do we mean when we slag off a pop star for being a 'muso'? Can the word ever be used to praise someone?

Andrew, Thursday, 26 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I am amazed that people still get hung up on artists/musicians/whatever being smug/arrogant/tossers etc. C'mon kids! Mozart was a smug arrogant tosser! As was James Joyce! And Picasso! It's not a bleeding popularity contest! As much as Weller is a monstrous fool, 'Long Hot Summer', 'You're the best thing...', 'Speak like a child', etc etc etc are wonderful (and much better than the Jam who are horribly uptight to my ears). CLASSIC!

stevie, Thursday, 26 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

It became very popular in the mid-90s to say the Style Council were ace because it annoyed Weller fans - and one could imagine Weller - a great deal. But were they actually ace? I would say not - they have a handful of good singles, probably as many as the Jam do - but a dourly classicist attitude applied to soul and fashion is as bad as a dourly classicist attitude applied to 60s pop. You might almost say their striving for classic made them dud.

As for muso, there's this implication that such people are a) soulless technicians (like, ooh, Kraftwerk or someone) and b) are the sort of people who talk a lot about playing instruments for pleasure. It's a bit of a tired word though.

Tom, Thursday, 26 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I would be very interested incidentally to hear Tim Hopkins' take on this since as we know from last Friday he is quite the Weller expert.

Tom, Thursday, 26 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

As far as musicians being twats is concerned then yes, maybe it should be irrelevant. Problem is, once you've been exposed to said musician's irritating personality traits and opinions it can change the context in which you listen to the music. This has affected me so much so in the case of Weller that his voice is now inextricably associated in my mind with his bogus outpourings about soul and authenticity, the whole mod revival bollocks and the atrocity that is Ocean Colour Scene.

Yup, muso is a tired word and using it in this case was plain laziness on my part. Particularly as I was reaching more for its connotations of authenticity fetishism rather than either of the meanings Tom mentioned.

Richard Tunnicliffe, Thursday, 26 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Well if you really want to know, then classic. I love the Style Council for the reasons Stevie mentions above, although I don't love everything they did. Fantastic, super-cool, high-quality pop.

I also love the Jam for pretty much the same reasons Stevie doesn't: uptight and claustrophobic. The inside-out apron on TOTP remains a key pop moment for me, and the pop-art imagery seemed enormously potent; still does, I suppose.

Neither is close to being my favourite band ever but both are classic. Paul Weller's solo work has been pretty much exclusively vile, and I can't even stand to look at pictures of him now, far less listen to him. But I love his previous work enough that his current stuff, and his lamentable association with a bunch of wheezing berks like OCS, can't spoil it. At least, not completely.

Tim, Thursday, 26 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Authenticity fetishism is found just about everywhere, so it seems a pretty lame reason to dis Weller. For example, analog synth buffs discussing a 1972 Moog, or hip-hop and dance officionados agonising over the 'right' film dialogue sample to use. All artists, fans and critics seem to have reference points of 'coolness', so maybe most of the posters here either don't like Weller's influences or the way that he uses them.

In fact it's more than that. At any given time there are usually a few artists who are hated in 'cool' circles beyond any rational explanation. Weller takes the flak from all directions - from the guitar-haters, dad-rock (whatever that is)- haters, 60's-haters, and the post-Britpop backlash. All at once. Dislike doesn't NEED to be rational, but so far in this thread most people have taken the attitude that it's totally UNDERSTOOD that he's crap without giving it a second thought.

I don't agree. The Jam were a great, great band -I don't really like the Style Council, but admire his effort to do something new. The solo work is just fine up to the patchy Heavy Soul and Heliocentric. Yeah it's trad, yeah it has guitars and mellotrons, but I'm not going to feel guilty about liking 'Wildwood' and 'Stanley Road'.

Dr. C, Thursday, 26 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

1. Stevie, who are you calling a tosser?

2. I think that Tom is, um, on the money here: it *did* become *has become?) the done thing to praise the SC and knock the Jam. And like him, I find the reality to be a handful of good tracks, not an all-time great band. In fact, come to think of it, it would be a pretty small handful. Depends how big a track is, I suppose.

3. I largely agree with Tim H about the Jam. He's, you know, on the money.

the pinefox, Thursday, 26 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I should note that I like the Jam without regret and own the box set. Nutty me. But maybe he should have died in 1982. Then again, he'd be even more of a weird-ass martyr figure than Ian Curtis if he did.

Ned Raggett, Thursday, 26 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I'm with Dr C on this one - it's a little weird the visceral hatred that's directed at Damon Albarn/Paul Weller/Gorillaz/Toploader (half of whom I've never heard, BTW) on account of their image/personality. At least 15 people here must have said in no uncertain terms that Gorillaz is utter shit, and probably no more than one or two of those havereferred to what they SOUND like.

The Style Council... Our Favourite Shop is a pretty catchy album from beginning to end, "How She Threw It All Way" a great shoulda-been-a- hit... so, Classic.

Patrick, Thursday, 26 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Well, response was initially as I suspected - dismissive and derogatory - but over the last few replies it's got more positive. I can see what Tom meant about the Style Council being so obsessed with their consensus of cool, from the title down, that that makes them a rather strained dud, but there are enough good songs there, many of them not singles ("Headstart For Happiness", "A Casual Affair", "Party Chambers", "It Just Came To Pieces In My Hands", "Changing of the Guard") to make their clunky cod-funk ("Iwasadoledadstoyboy"),boring dinner jazz ("Dropping Bombs On The White House"), and hamfisted embracing of early UK hip-hop on the "Cost of Loving" album, seem like minor offences.

I'm not surprised at Omar's response because Weller's entire career, like The Smiths / Morrissey and the Manics, is essentially a UK phenomenon and meaningless in the US and mainland Europe (admittedly the Style Council made a few inroads into the US chart). But what I find curious about Paul Weller, and still has me baffling about the man even today, is how his self-positioning has shifted so violently from aggressively upfront, uptight very parochially-concerned young "face" (the early Jam records), to rather earnest "voice of a generation" (the late Jam records), to some kind of soul-fuelled semi- globalism (TSC), back to earnest rock sweat and irrelevance (solo). I do find it interesting how one man can promote an aspirationally cosmopolitan, culturally ambitious ethos (the naivety of TSC's suburban perception of "sophistication" is what I find charming about it), can shine so brightly and briefly, and then sink so definitively back into the mire from which he came. So the cultural ins-and-outs of Weller I find interesting more than I find most of his music, if you see what I mean.

Robin Carmody, Thursday, 26 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

My quick answer: my appreciation of music works at a sonic and a conceptual level. The bands you mention mostly = boring/drab at sonic level, and then particularly unappealing at a conceptual level. Also with all but Toploader there's massive overclaim about the merits of their music from the artist themselves, which is what rock-lovin' Americans tend to dislike about UK musicians, so why be surprised that we don't like it either? ;)

Tom, Thursday, 26 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Tom - 'cause I haven't been exposed to the overclaim in those particular cases, just the putdowns :). But yeah, good enough point there ;). The "rock-lovin' Americans" part of that sentence is funny *wonders what U.S. Jennifer Lopez fans think of big-mouthed UK artists*.

Patrick, Thursday, 26 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

But what I find curious about Paul Weller, and still has me baffling about the man even today, is how his self-positioning has shifted so violently from aggressively upfront, uptight very parochially-concerned young "face" (the early Jam records), to rather earnest "voice of a generation" (the late Jam records), to some kind of soul-fuelled semi- globalism (TSC), back to earnest rock sweat and irrelevance (solo). (Robin)

I don't see anything particularly contradictory in Weller's directional shifts. The thread that runs through the whole thing is his obsession with 'Mod' and the R&B/Soul of the 60's. It's true that he has a history of embracing fashionable styles (eg the move towards funk in the early 80's, and his conversion to House in the late 80's), but he always harnesses them to his core beliefs. I also don't think it's fair to describe his more recent stuff as 'earnest rock'. It's *intended* to be a joyous return to his roots (he's obviously a great fan of Stevie Winwood & Traffic and they weren't particularly earnest). I'm not saying that everything he's done is great, far from it, but it seems reasonably consistent to me.

David, Thursday, 26 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

David:

"It's true that he (Weller) has a history of embracing fashionable styles"

Though, on "Confessions of a Pop Group", he went with unfashionable, "timeless" MOR and light-classical styles, which make up the first side of the album which I love. While "How She Threw It All Away" and "Why I Went Missing" from the second side of the album are classic to me, other tracks are a little tepid and stuck in very dated production.

"I also don't think it's fair to describe his recent stuff as 'earnest rock'."

Just that it sounds that way to me. He's aspiring after some notional idea of "joy", but a very cliched soulman's idea, and it all sounds desperately well-meant, as though it was very unexciting and boring to record. While I can see what you mean about Weller having a consistency running through all his work, I do find quite a difference between the "embrace everything; you can have fun *and* be strongly of the left" (quite a fresh approach itself in those dour Scargillian days) ethos the Style Council communicated, and the narrow reference points and complete ideological emptiness of his solo career.

Robin Carmody, Thursday, 26 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

two years pass...
What did happen to Mick Talbot? i did see a good few years back a jazz album he and steve white did. Forget the name of the bandname.
Did he actually appear on any recordings when he was in Dexy's Midnight Runners?

Rossco, Thursday, 10 July 2003 20:03 (seventeen years ago) link

two years pass...
I give up. I have officially lost my mind over Style Council. Everything they released prior to their first album was godhead, for one thing.

Bimble brings a lawn chair to antartica so he can sit and drink silver coff (Bim, Sunday, 22 January 2006 10:02 (fifteen years ago) link

5 Reasons to Love the Style Council:
1. Long Hot Summer is a great summer party record, one of the very finest, strangely linked in my mind with JD's Atmosphere because of those sparkly sounds.
2. 80s white soul has a bad name generally, but no-one can seriously contend that You're the Best Thing isn't gorgeous, both for the tune and the production.
3. For a run of fine singles including Shout to the Top, Walls come tumbling down (like mid-period Jam with piano replacing guitar)
4. Despite a brief flirtation with dirty mac chic, weller retained some measure of sartorial elegance
5. most women want to fuck paul weller

5 reasons to hate TSC
1. The albums, famously the later stuff
2. The cappucino kid sleevenotes
3. their attempts at 'rap', ahem
4. the jazz pretensions
5. the offshoots - especially Respond, Tracie, etc...

dr x o'skeleton, Monday, 23 January 2006 11:19 (fifteen years ago) link

second album is a sentimental favorite. somehow I scammed a free whirlwind 2-day trip to London to interview the lads. saw 'em play at a theatre in Brixton (name?). summer 1985. it was a good show, Paul Weller was great to talk with, and I even met his dad who was the group's road manager.

m coleman (lovebug starski), Monday, 23 January 2006 11:36 (fifteen years ago) link

"Shout To The Top" and "Walls" = classics!

m coleman (lovebug starski), Monday, 23 January 2006 11:38 (fifteen years ago) link

I think Style Council is far and away Paul Weller's best work.

'Curt' Russell (noodle vague), Monday, 23 January 2006 11:43 (fifteen years ago) link

i'd say classic.
not as good or 'important' as the jam, but very enjoyable.
can't understand why so many people hate them (unless they were fans of the jam, or -understandably- hate the current paul weller persona)

joan vich (joan vich), Monday, 23 January 2006 12:10 (fifteen years ago) link

eleven months pass...
I really want to be in touch with people who love discussing Style Council. Please email me if necessary. Now they did some crap/boring stuff, but the amazing stuff well outweighs it.

In particular I want to discuss "Confessions Of A Pop Group". I love that album so much that I had to purchase it separately even though I already had the box set. Such an ambitious album...maybe even pretentious...it has some flaws but to me it's filled with a weighty, comforting substance. Their stab at classical music or whatever...just crazy. No one wanted it out of them, no one cared a jot, but yet...look what they did.

That said, "Life At A Top People's Health Farm" is utter crap and even Weller himself said he was unhappy with it later.

"It's A Very Deep Sea" alone should convince anyone they had something uncommonly brilliant to offer here.

Good Warlock of the West (Bimble...), Sunday, 7 January 2007 06:00 (fourteen years ago) link

And actually I shouldn't say just classical. They were going for jazz here and...I dunno what that kind of music is called. Most of it wasn't fucking pop music that's for sure.

Good Warlock of the West (Bimble...), Sunday, 7 January 2007 06:15 (fourteen years ago) link

one year passes...

I don't know why the song Money Go Round sounds better than ever now, and I've heard it plenty of times already:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7Bq9YdDVc8

Bimble Is Still More Goth Than You, Saturday, 7 June 2008 06:26 (twelve years ago) link

four years pass...

Listening to The Style Council's The Complete Adventures Of The Style Council box set over the last couple of days, which features all of the material released under The Style Council name throughout their career, plus the unreleased (at the time) lost 'house album'. Listening to their material in this way, I'd say their output was classic until The Cost Of Loving which (maybe 'Waiting' aside) is a massive dud, IMHO. The first side of Confessions Of A Pop Group is classic, and undoubtedly features some of the most adventurous music Weller ever made, and this includes his recent solo stuff. The second half is dud, though, as is the 'house album'.

One thing that I've noticed about The Style Council era from about 1983-1985 is that Weller has a tendency to revisit his songs quite a lot. 'The Paris Match', 'Headstart For Happiness', 'My Ever Changing Moods' to name three were recorded in one or two different arrangements and put out on different releases. Weller didn't really do this very much in either The Jam or his solo career, if at all.

The Jupiter 8 (Turrican), Friday, 3 August 2012 21:16 (eight years ago) link

eight years pass...

there's a Style Council documentary on Showtime, interesting, wasn't that familiar with them

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Friday, 19 February 2021 02:30 (one week ago) link

Every time I dive into their catalog Weller's inability to sing his own songs distances me, but the concept -- punk rocker anticipating Swing Out Sister -- draws me back.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 19 February 2021 02:52 (one week ago) link

i am going to check them out, have not heard much other than an odd song that might have popped up on a spotify radio station

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Friday, 19 February 2021 14:42 (one week ago) link

style council on totp rapping "if you're part of the working class, this issue applies to you!" or something like that was a real "aw, bless" moment.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 19 February 2021 16:30 (one week ago) link


You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.