“Always There To Confuse And Fool You”

I can still remember the first time I heard this song, surprisingly clearly; I was in the upstairs living room of the house I grew up in — we called it the “TV room,” for some reason, despite the fact that we didn’t use it to watch TV, and for much of my childhood, there wasn’t even a TV in there — and it was summer, or at least sunny. I was listening to Jakki Brambles on Radio 1, and she was very excited to play this for… maybe the first time, perhaps? How much of this actually happened, versus how much I’ve imagined and convinced myself is true, is entirely open to conjecture.

The song, though, fits that period in my memory. It sounds dated and uncertain, as Weller rips off “Dear Prudence” and marries it to audio that sounds as if he was still trying to get over his Style Council days. Was he still technically calling himself “The Paul Weller Experience” at the time this was released as a single? Perhaps.

All of that, from the awkward horn stabs to the early Brendan Lynch beeps and boops to the idea that “The Paul Weller Experience” was anything other than an embarrassment, make up the early 1990s as they exist in my head; an era of no-one quite knowing what anything is going to be, but trying out new things and seeing how they feel. It’s not the Paul Weller who became known as The Modfather just yet, but all the ingredients are there, waiting to be mixed right.

The same could be said for me at the time, perhaps, although I wouldn’t be mixed right for years after that (if it’s ever happened, I add, self-consciously). But I can’t help but feel as if this song was me, in a way, back then: Making tentative steps into the future and getting as much wrong as right in terms of what would stick around.

I love it more because of that personification, arguably (certainly) more than it deserves. It’s a song that even Weller fans would admit is one of his lesser singles, but every time I hear even a snippet of it, I find myself wanting to listen to the whole thing, remembering the uncertainty it represents with undisguised fondness.

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