On 22 Dreams, Paul Weller indulges just about every genre he's flirted with over the past 30 years—with the emphasis on "indulge." With The Jam, The Style Council, and a mostly stellar solo career, Weller has dabbled in everything from punk and folk to jazz and house, all cemented by his trademark gritty R&B.; Dreams starts out true to form with "Light Nights," a Cat Stevens-esque raga full of smoky ghosts and fiddles that climb around him like vines. It's immediately followed by the disc's title track, a rousing take on the classic Brit-rock perfected by Weller's most enduring influence, Small Faces. It's mostly downhill from there—and with 21 songs total, that's quite a drop. "Black River" is cabaret jazz that strains to relax. "Push It Along" is a generic soul stomper that dry-humps the line between homage and pastiche. If 22 Dreams is Weller's stab at a White Album, "111" is its "Revolution 9"—a synth collage that strives toward art in the worst possible way. Still, there's a sense of fun and wonder to 22 Dreams that keeps it from feeling pretentious—just not any less tedious. Weller's last album, 2005's invigorating As Is Now, was pumped out a mere year after its predecessor; if 22 Dreams is what happens when he takes a three-year break, here's hoping his next one is a quickie.
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