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10 Essential The Style Council Singles

After the breakup of The Jam in 1982, singer/guitarist Paul Weller formed The Style Council with keyboardist Mick Talbot. The group’s music was a huge break from the punky mod rock of The Jam. The Style Council was smooth, sophisticated, and more rooted in jazz and R&B than rock-n-roll. For this reason, I believe they were unfairly maligned. No, they weren’t The Jam, one of the greatest rock bands of its era in the UK. But they recorded some damn fine pop songs, many with biting social commentary, that hold up very well nearly four decades later.

I’ve heard the entire Style Council catalog and I firmly believe they are best experienced through singles and compilations. While they have some solid albums, even the best ones get a little too ambitious for their own good and have their share of filler.

The Style Council broke up in 1989 and Weller has since focused on his solo career, releasing 16 studio albums. His latest, Fat Pop (Volume 1), dropped just a few months ago. All these years later, there seems to be a bit of reassessment of The Style Council. Last year saw the release of the excellent 2-CD comp Long Hot Summers: The Story of the Style Council as well as a documentary of the same name. [Click here to read our review of the doc].

Looking for an introduction to this underrated ‘80s group? You’ve come to the right place. Here are 360°Sound’s picks for the greatest singles from The Style Council:

“Speak Like a Child”

Released: 1983
from the EP Introducing The Style Council

The super catchy, soulful debut single was a huge hit in England, peaking at #4 on the UK Singles Chart. The horn charts and organ licks alone put this among the group’s very best.

“Money-Go-Round”

Released: 1983
From the EP Introducing The Style Council

“Money-Go-Round” is funky as hell. The groove is so thick and tasty that it’s easy to overlook Weller speaking truth to power: No good looking to the Empire corners/’Civilization’ built on slaughter.

“Long Hot Summer”

Released: 1983
From the EP Introducing The Style Council

What a groove! It’s like a slow-jam boogie song with the synth bass. I also love the 12-inch mix included on the excellent 1989 comp The Singular Adventures of the Style Council, which has a heavy helping of Roland TR-808. This song belongs on every long-hot summer playlist as far as I’m concerned. The video of the guys punting in Cambridge is charming.

“My Ever Changing Moods”

Released: 1984
From the album Café Blue

Cafe Blue was titled My Every Changing Moods in the States. The “title track” was The Style Council’s only Billboard Hot 100 Top 40 hit, peaking at #29 in June 1984 and making them one-hit wonders stateside. The song featured a fun, breezy video of Weller and Talbot bicycling through the English countryside. Tunes like this are what I meant by “damn fine pop songs.” What’s not to like?

“You’re The Best Thing”

Released: 1984
From the album Café Blue

On “You’re The Best Thing,” Weller slows things down and gets romantic but not without including his political barbs: You’re the best thing that ever happened, so don’t go away/I might be a king and steal my people’s things/But I don’t go for that power crazy way. This was one of their biggest hits, peaking at #5 on the UK Singles Chart and #31 on the U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.

“Shout to the Top!”

Released: 1984
From the album Our Favourite Shop

Probably my favorite Style Council song, the driving string section immediately hooks you. It’s so soulful and bursting with energy that I can’t listen without tapping my feet. I love the sepia-toned music video with Talbot goin’ to town on the piano as a sunglassed Weller coolly sings into a super-slim microphone with Dee C. Lee supporting. All done in front of a painting depicting the 1984 UK miner’s strike.

“Walls Come Tumbling Down”

Released: 1985
From the album Our Favourite Shop

If “Shout to the Top!” is my favorite, then “Walls Come Tumbling Down” is a close second. A defiant political anthem with one of the best opening bars in the catalog: You don’t have to take this crap/You don’t have to sit back and relax. Adding to the political punch, the video was shot behind the Iron Curtain in Warsaw, Poland.

Last year, the UK music magazine Uncut ran a feature about the making of this song. Drummer Steve White told the mag: “It does stand out on Our Favourite Shop as the rockiest track on the record, though it’s still got a great soulful feel about it.” Said Weller: “It’s probably my favorite thing we did.”

“The Lodgers (Or She Was Only a Shopkeeper’s Daughter)”

Released: 1985
From the album Our Favourite Shop

I was happy to run across this high-quality video from the band’s appearance on Top of the Pops in 1985 featuring lovely harmonies between Weller and his then-wife Dee C. Lee. This song also has a great opening line; this one taking aim at economic injustice: There’s no peace for the wicked – there’s only war on the poor.

“Wanted (Or Waiter, There’s Some Soup In My Flies)”

Released: 1987
Non-album single

“Wanted” is more ’80s-sounding than most Council tracks with its keyboard effects and slap bass, but it’s so irresistibly catchy and danceable I can forgive the dated production. No jabs from Weller at Thatcherism in this one, just a song about being unable to pluck up the courage to talk to his crush.

“How She Threw It All Away”

Released: 1988
From the album Confessions of a Pop Group

This was a standout tune from their penultimate album Confessions of a Pop Group, a record that critics panned as overindulgent and pretentious. However, it’s highly regarded among many fans. Weller and his ever-changing hairstyles, he’s seen here in ‘88 sporting a bleached blonde look, a whole decade before Eminem.

It’s worth noting that The Style Council’s fifth and final album, Modernism: A New Decade, experimented with deep house. The record was finished in 1989 but was shelved by the record label and didn’t see a release until 1998. At the time, house music was a new genre and yet to go mainstream.

Credit Weller and crew for not being afraid to push boundaries and try so many new things during their seven-year run. They hit on everything from jazz and hip-hop to bossa nova and classical. Sometimes they failed miserably; as noted in the intro, their albums were often uneven affairs. But at their best, The Style Council recorded some of the greatest singles of the 1980s. Here’s hoping they form a solid bond in your heart as they have mine.

check out more The Style Council stuff

Film Review – Long Hot Summers: The Story of The Style Council

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