Weller is virtually alone in this wonderful world of pop in conspicuously giving a damn. The effort nearly cripples him at times too, but when it works it's blinding. "A Town Called Malice" [from "The Gift"] for example, once over that razorslash rhythm guitar and the restlessly pumping bass and drums, Weller suddenly unleashes lines like "It's enough to make you stop believing when tears come fast and furious / In a town called Malice".
It's when he backs off and lets the details fill themselves in that Weller's writing really cuts to the bone. When he tries for living-room drama, it's a bit like looking at a badly-lit TV studio on video tape….
There's a strong streak of the romantic in Paul Weller. It inevitably tends to colour his perceptions, and make his vision of class struggle and the indignity of labour seem over-simplified and at times almost Dickensian….
[Despite] the potency of some of the images, it's only when Weller uses his imagination and not just his eyes that the song ["The Planner's Dream Goes Wrong"], achieves anything more than impotent rage….
[There] has to be a special mention for "Ghosts", probably the most haunting and haunted song Weller has written…. Weller exorcises a few demons of his own: "That ain't no ghost—it's a reflection of you."…
It's probably pretentious to start picking up key images from these songs, but the mirror as instrument of revelation appears again in a sombre Kinks-like number on side two called "Carnation": "Look no further than the mirror—because I am the Greed and Fear / And every ounce of Hate in you". Melodrama? Maybe. It works, though.
In a couple of weeks I should know for sure whether "The Gift" is a classic or merely a very good record. At the moment I can't get it off the turntable.
Adam Sweeting, "Get Weller Soon," in Melody Maker (© IPC Business Press Ltd.), March 6, 1982, p. 17 [the first excerpt of Paul Weller's lyrics used here was taken from "A Town Called Malice" (copyright © 1982 by Chappell & Co., Ltd.; published in the U.S.A. by Chappell & Co., Inc.; all rights reserved; used by permission); the second excerpt was taken from "Carnation" (© 1982 by Morrison Leahy Music Ltd.; reprinted by permission of Morrison Leahy Music Ltd.)].