It’s always great I find when you discover that a band which you knew of turns out better than you first thought. I knew of several Style Council tracks “Shout to the Top” etc. and liked what I heard, while I have also been a big Jam and Paul Weller fan for a while, however his 80s project The Style Council had sort of passed me by, until now, and wow am I pleasantly surprised with what I have discovered.
When Paul Weller disbanded The Jam in 1982 he went on to form a new group The Style Council, a sort of jazz/R&B/pop hybrid, although some would term this fusion style of music sophisti-pop, quite ludicrously. In actual fact, with this project, Weller, the lead singer/songwriter, and guitarist was exploring new sounds and styles which fell outside the punk-rock, mod revival limitations of his previous band The Jam. So there was a lot more emphasis placed on soulful melodies and rhythms. Weller would be complemented in this new group by Mick Talbot on keyboards and Hammond organ, Steve White on drums, and Dee C. Lee on backing vocals. The band went on to record some very good and stylistically interesting albums in the mid-80s, with the two stand out records being Café Bleu in 1984 as well as Our Favourite Shop in 1985. Weller would also use this project to continue with some of the socio-economic and political themes he explored in his songwriting with The Jam, using it as an outlet to criticise Thatcher’s Britain and other issues such as racism and sexism. This was seen in songs such as “A Stones Throw Away”, and “Walls Come Tumbling Down”.
So, like with any band you are discovering for the first time, you often turn to compilations to get a snapshot or overview of their work, just to test the waters so to speak. Thankfully, I found this great two-disc compilation The Style Council: Gold and as far as compilations go, this one is fantastic and does a great job in highlighting the stylistic diversity of the band across two discs. There’s the soul of “You’re the Best Thing” and “Headstart for Happiness”, the R&B of “Speak Like a Child” and “Our Favourite Shop”, the jazz of “Have You Ever Had It Blue” and the dance/house sound of “Promised Land”.
Although The Style Council did not have overly significant commercial success compared to some of their more successful contemporaries, they were a highly creative and stylistically interesting group and were quite different from what else was going on at the time musically. You could not exactly pigeonhole them into one single genre and they were not scared at all to experiment with different sounds, as evident with their foray into house music later in the decade. The band disbanded in 1989 and Weller went on to have a very successful solo career, but one thing is sure, and that is that they certainly made a splash with their creative pursuits in the mid-80s, bringing in different styles of music which might otherwise have been left behind as the 80s forged ahead with new wave and synth pop. The Style Council are definitely worth checking out if anything to show that there was more to the 80s than just drum machines and synths and that bands were still willing to take musical risks at a time when safe often seemed the way to go.