by Rinjo Njori.
Make no mistake, Paul Weller (The Jam, The Style Council, and his solo work) and Graham Coxon (Blur and his solo work) have not redefined, reinvigorated or re-"anything-ed" with their collaboration on This Old Town. Collaborating on one song, and backing each other up on their own compositions, there is an equal balance of playing it safe and forging out into unknown territory.
"Black River", Weller's contribution, is a jazzy piano driven song that doesn't fall far from the softer, synthless moments of the Style Council. Nonetheless, Weller makes the mistake of not taking a chance or attempting to branch out with this sub par track. "Each New Morning" is equally unremarkable, but far more enjoyable. Coxon, like Weller, writes what he knows best, perfect Brit Pop with a punk sneer. The sound falls a little more in line with Blur than Coxon's solo work. You can't help but speculate that this is a tune up for a full blown reunion of Coxon and Damon Albarn. Like Weller's tune, Coxon seems to be avoiding the opportunity shake things up. Either way, neither Weller or Coxon brought their A-Game to these tracks.
However, "This Old Town" is really what this 7 inch is all about and thankfully it delivers. With Coxon taking lead vocals and relegating Weller to chorus and lead guitar the duo really swing for the fences on this one. There is a surprisingly heavy dose of Matthew Sweet style power pop that is spun into this mix. On every level it really works. From the jangly guitar, to the lead vocal over dubs and the more obvious Americana-type references. This track wouldn't sound out of place on Sweet's Altered Beast or Blue Sky on Mars. This track alone makes the collaboration worthwhile.
I can't imagine that Weller or Coxon will give up their day jobs to record with each other full time, but it's nice to see what these two could do together. An occasional song here or there could be interesting and possibly evolve into something more. Some people are crying foul and pointless, but the attempt on some level could inspire other interesting collaborations.