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Paul Weller Is the Woke Daddy British Music Needs

He's spoken out in favour of grime and R&B, and disavowed the "insipid" state of guitar music right now. Which, actually, yeah.
Lauren O'Neill
London, GB

Who would have thought it, eh? Who'd have guessed that a man who is colloquially known as The Modfather would actually turn out to be one of the least bad older people in British music today? Paul Weller, your mum's crush and your dad's secret hair idol, previously of The Jam and The Style Council, has got some actually rather solid opinions about the state of guitar music right now, and you can bet your arse he's told the bloody NME all about them!


This revelation was sparked by an interview that took place before Weller's recent Teenage Cancer Trust benefit concert at the Royal Albert Hall (Woke Dad Points: he's charitable). When asked about his favourite UK bands, he said: "I find [British guitar music] a bit insipid at the moment. I can't think of any guitar bands, English bands anyway, at the moment." While this is far from a new position – it's been a long time since rock music in the UK felt anywhere near exciting, sorry The 1975 – it's nicely damning to hear such a distinguished member of the old guard write off the new school in such a direct way.

That said, the disappointing, watered-down state of UK guitar music does mean that Woke Daddy Weller has had to get his kicks elsewhere: "I like the J Hus single 'Did You See' – that's really good," he continued, in the interview. "Band-wise, nothing's really moving me at the moment, but there's some good R&B things. I like the Anderson .Paak record, and I liked Kendrick Lamar's album."

Though it's easy to write off Weller's position as "yer da's been listening to a bit of 1Xtra has he?" it is admittedly a welcome change to hear an old white dude speak about black music and culture in the UK and beyond in what sounds like an open-minded way. He seems ready to engage with the important forces they are – and that feels rare, considering the blinkered treatment they often get by other older players in the entertainment industry. Think, for example, of the mockery made by French and Saunders of Skepta's "Shutdown" during this year's Comic Relief (hold tight Jennifer Saunders' ridiculous tracksuit), or of the recent Morrissey James Baldwin T-shirt design debacle. Again and again, old indie figureheads fail to take seriously the contributions of black artists from various disciplines, and while Weller shouldn't be awarded a special cookie for recognising what's right in front of him, it is refreshing to hear him giving them credit where due.


When asked about grime, easily the biggest force in UK music right now, and inseparable from the black cultures that birthed it, Weller gave a typically Dad but ultimately thoughtful answer: "I haven't really heard much of it – I've only heard it when I tune into a pirate station in the car. Some of it like – it's like any music, there's always going to be good bits I get, and other bits I don't get – but I think it's probably the only form of British music that's really saying something."

While I'd question the radio stations he's listening to (you don't need to tune into Flex FM to hear Stormzy anymore, but fair play to Paul who is clearly banging the UKG in his Mini Cooper), he's not wrong. Grime is the music that best communicates where youth culture is at in some of Britain's biggest cities right now, and if doing-it-yourself, confronting marginalisation and having a good time doing is are the criteria to meet, it's easily filling the role carved out by punk rock in the 1970's. When, after all, was the last time a British guitar band threw an impromptu rave in a car park?

As more and more once-admirable musicians turn out to be toothless shadows of their former selves, then, it's nice to know that some are able to stick to the principles that propelled them in the first place. Presenting Paul Weller: the unexpectedly Woke Daddy that the British entertainment industry should be taking its cues from.

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(Image via Paul Weller on Twitter)