Our Favourite Shop – The Style Council

It was 1985 late April or possibly early May, I sat listening intently to Radio 1 along with my friend Garry waiting to hear a preview of the new Style Council album.

From memory it was snatches of the songs and an interview with Paul and Mick.

What we heard sounded interesting, poppy and varied.

The modern jazz vibe of the first album had gone, which personally I had liked, but the pop vibe that had replaced it was decent and I liked what I heard.

Anyway, after that it was a walk to Stockbridge for a few pints, it was mid-week I think , to talk politics, music and our plans for world domination of the music scene, with our Beatles fuelled songs.

The day Our Favourite Shop was released found me off to Virgin or HMV to pick up the album and then a rush home after work to give it a first listen.

At the time I really liked it and its an album I still return to 30 odd years after it was released.

So, what do I think of each track?

Our Favourite Shop

UK Album Chart Position 1

Homebreakers

This is a bit of slow burner.

Opening with sounds from a railway station to add a bit of atmosphere and then slowly building from there. Mick, Paul and Dee take it in turn to deliver the opening lines.

Sometimes this is described as Paul Weller’s most political album and this kicks things off by tackling unemployment and the break up of a family.

All Gone Away

Things get a bit more upbeat with some jazzy guitar work and nice flute accompaniment.

Lyrically political subjects are again tackled, unemployment but rather than the focus just being the individual and the family, as with Homebrakers, All Gone Away widens this to how unemployment has an impact on communities.

Come to Milton Keynes

UK Single Chart Position 23 

The upbeat mood continues with Come to Milton Keynes, although this had its critics and it does seem and odd choice for a single, given the other songs the council had around at the time, I quite like it for the range of instruments used on the track.

Lyrically it tackles the issues of consumerism, alienation and drugs.

Internationalists

The council try out a funky groove with this one, fast-paced, wha-wha guitars, organ and horns and lyrics about changing the world.

Again a song very much of its time and one the council played during their Live Aid set.

A Stones Throw Away

The mood changes to a more sombre one with the more classical sound of A Stones Throw Away.

Sometimes these songs don’t always work but I think this nails it.

Once again, lyrics that are political and go round the world until they end up closer to home in South Yorkshire. The song ends on a quite chilling note with just Weller’s voice being heard as the strings drop away.

The Stand Up Comedians Instructions

Lenny Henry guesting on vocals here and this time the subject is racism and stereotyping.

A good idea but whether they really pull it off is open to question and the years haven’t been too kind to this one.

Boy Who Cried Wolf

A change of style and subject as the political mood of the first part of the album becomes personal.

This is a song that has grown on me over the years.

A song of ultimately doomed love with a pop-funk backing.

There are some echoes of what was to come on the next album but whilst that album maybe suffered from a too polished production I think the production on this works and suits the song.

On vinyl this brought side 1 to an end.

A Man of Great Promise

A song that has deserved the occasional revival over the years when it has reappeared in Weller’s set-list.

Dedicated to Weller’s friend Dave Waller and opening with church bells.

It’s a heart-felt tribute to someone who was close to Weller.

Nice chiming guitars which some great percussion makes this song one of the highlights of the album.

Down in the Seine

Back to France following on from the A Paris ep of 1983.

A nice little diversion with accordion some good acoustic guitar work and waltzy time signature.

The lyrics are about love and water is used as an image, which again echoes the A Paris ep, which included an instrumental version of Party Chambers. The original Party Chambers, the b-side of Speak Like a Child, included lyrics about being at the water’s edge.

The Lodger’s (Or She Was Only a Shopkeeper’s Daughter)

UK Single Chart Position 13

A return to politics and soul with this next track.

The lyrics are mainly about the class system and the establishment.

Musically the style is a bit of a precursor of what was to come on the next album but similarly the production on this suits the style of this track better.

Luck

The breezy feel of summer and back to the personal with this optimistic song about the nature of love.

Some lovely piano work underpins the final coda of ‘Luck taste of summer time.’

With Everything to Lose

With a musical backing similar to that used for Have You Ever Had  It Blue we return to politics and this time the workplace.

The Style Council drummer, Steve White wrote the lyrics for this which highlight the deaths of young people under the then governments Youth Training Scheme.

This track features a cracking sax solo.

Our Favourite Shop

Drenched in Hammond Organ one of Mick Talbot’s funkier instrumentals which includes a trumpet solo.

A good groove, like most of Mick’s solo pieces with the council.

Walls Come Tumbling Down

UK Single Chart Position 6

The single which preceded the album, a political call to arms wrapped within a driving pop song.

Rarely has pop and politics sounded so life affirming and vital.

Weller hitting out at government and calling for unity.

At the time many people said that this was the angriest and most aggressive he had sounded since the Jam.

And that’s where the album finished going out on a real high!

Overall

Lyrically very much an album of the politics of the time and I think that its important because of the events that it chronicles.

It’s difficult to think of politics featuring so blatantly in the top twenty of today or that a song calling for working class unity would feature on a prime-time talk show as Walls Come Tumbling Down did when the Style Council appeared on Wogan.

Musically this developed the sound that the Style Council had been honing since their first single but adding in more elements of soul and funk.

For me this had the right blend of all of those elements and overall Our Favourite Shop just shades being my favourite Style Council album, just ahead of Cafe Bleu and Confessions.

The soul element would overtake the more pop and jazz influences on the Council’s next album the Cost of Loving.

 

 

TSC - Our Favourite Shop

 

TSC - Inner Sleeve

 

 

 

 

 

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About bernardharkins

Involved in Labour Party politics and a trade union activist. I live in Musselburgh and I am a Community Councillor. I am interested in running, cycling, reading and music, especially from the 60's.
This entry was posted in 1980's, modernism, mods, Music, paul weller, the style council, uk music and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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