Paul Weller – Jawbone Soundtrack ★★

Paul Weller’s soundtrack to new boxing film ‘Jawbone’, his first full score after previous dabbles in writing for the screen, has its heart in the right place, but ultimately fails to provide anything of merit aside from lead track ‘The Ballad of Jimmy McCabe’.

The idea of producing a series of soundscapes for the film is a noble one, however the finished product is merely a hangover from his electro-experimental Sonik Kicks phase circa 2012 when he started work on this. And for a constantly evolving artist like Weller, that’s no good. This is particularly evidenced on ‘Man on Fire’ and first track ‘Jimmy/Blackout’.

The opener, which lasts for over 20 minutes, gives nothing more than a slightly interesting listen or two, even when it livens up a bit after halfway and we hear a few guitar, percussive and vocal elements.

Admittedly, it is interesting to hear the spoken parts from the film between tracks, but they add precious little to the soundtrack as it is. You feel that the parts from the film’s stars like Ray Winston and actor-writer Johnny Harris would be intensely dramatic on screen, but their impact is totally lost without a plot or visual accompaniment.

So, the only song worth talking about, ‘Jimmy McCabe’, is perhaps not as emotional as Weller at his rawest and most introspective on classic tracks such as ‘I Should Have Been There to Inspire You’ or ‘Be Happy Children’ owing to its subject of a fictionalised character, but it does come close. The acoustic song retains the beautiful lyrical fragility and tenderness of Saturns Pattern bonus track ‘Dusk ‘til Dawn’.

Another positive is that Weller’s voice is not horrendously mangled like on recent studio releases (think ‘The Attic’ or ‘White Sky’). This is Weller’s superb matured voice exposed at its finest without the obvious electronic butchery.

The only other number not largely instrumental is the short, acoustic ‘Bottle’, featuring early Jam member Steve Brookes. However, for all its tenderness, it is cliché ridden and boring: it would be a good song by most but fails to match the standard of Weller’s songwriting in his recent ‘renaissance’.

Perhaps I expected too much given the constraints of the soundtrack genre. The vinyl release was certainly excessive for what is a mediocre soundtrack at best. Those who know Tracey Thorn’s superlative Songs From the Falling, however, might well see where my misplaced excitement came from.

But this is a record only for diehard Weller fans, that even by them will be given a quick listen or two and then filed away well down the pile.

Save yourself the effort. Download the sublime ‘Ballad of Jimmy McCabe’ and give the rest of this dull, plodding dirge a miss.

Having said that, the disappointment of this glorified single release of Jimmy McCabe has done nothing to dampen my excitement for Weller’s upcoming full LP and tour, or the film due in cinemas soon, set to which I’m sure this will work better. The main song’s spark leaves me wanting more, and I look forward to being satiated soon.


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Tony Allen

June 2021
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