Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Style Council 'You're The Best Thing'

Chart Peak: 5


Paul Weller's first Now appearance in this - and therefore any - guise comes a while into the Style Council's career. By this point they'd already released several singles and the album CafĂ© Bleu but for supposed "value for money" reasons that ignored the early hits and featured a different version of 'My Ever Changing Moods'. So 'You're The Best Thing' was their first single really taken from an album (albeit in an edited version), and even then it was officially half of a single called Groovin' with the new track 'Big Boss Groove'. Yes, it was the eighties, and in those days it was acceptable to call a single that.

I jest of course, but I suppose if there was one thing the early Style Council was about, it was doing things that Weller couldn't have got away with while he was in The Jam. And whilst 'You're The Best Thing' isn't most people's idea of a daring or experimental record, it is quite a departure from the sort of thing his audience would have been expecting just a couple of years earlier: no power chords, no leaping up in the air, no machismo but a sincere (or at least unironic) love song in a decidedly tender falsetto. Weller has claimed that the song was inspired by the Isley Brothers hit 'Between The Sheets', which is just about audible, although fortunately this track is much less priapic (no sign of the grunting from the second half of the Isleys track). In fact, if I were to name a Style Council song that was sonically similar to 'Between The Sheets' I'd probably have mentioned 'Long Hot Summer', which is even closer in tempo and has a similar keyboard sound. Source notwithstanding, though, this is a song that succeeds totally on its own terms, and I can say that wholeheartedly as somebody who ranks Sound Affects among his all-time favourite albums. It's a staple of love song compilations and oldies radio stations and for once deserves to be so. Weller has obviously always been a lover of soul music, which he's referenced even since the first Jam album, and unlike say Phil Collins he has a genuine aptitude for the style too. Typically his gruff vocal is part of that but even in this higher register he's an outstanding singer and the mood is just right too, with a real sense of vulnerability that makes this seem more than an exercise in genre, whether or not it actually is one. Also this track features what I reckon is my favourite sax solo in pop music, a lovely reedy sounding one that adds to the atmosphere instead of just sounding like somebody wants to get on one of those compilation albums.

The Council's desire to push boundaries led them down a lot of blind alleys over the years, many of them even more mistaken and futile than the mixed metaphor in this sentence. But when they hit the mark in the early days they made a notable contribution to their leader's stock of great singles, and this is among them.

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