Just as the jam, and even The Style Council, exercised quality control when it came to B-sides, the solo Weller was similarly shrewd in his choice of extra tracks, even after he traded the romantic 45 rpm seven-inch for the sterile CD single.
As compiled over Fly On The Wall’s first two discs, his non-album off-cuts between 1991’s “Into Tomorrow” and 2000’s “Sweet Pea” fall into three categories. First there are ones that got away, like 1995’s “A Year Late”?a harsh jab of acoustic melancholy which might have closed Stanley Road (instead it became the B-side of “You Do Something To Me”). Or 1997’s Heavy Soul-era “Shoot The Dove”, a mid-tempo rock spiritual which would have made a terrific single. Typical of Weller’s maturing repertoire, both deserve inclusion on any career best-of.
Secondly, there are instrumentals. Eight of them, from the early-’90s Acid Jazz hangover of “That Spiritual Feeling” to the block rockin’ beats of “Steam” (its charging drum loop adapted from Stanley Road’s “Whirlpool’s End”) and the E-wary funkadelia of ’97’s “So You Want To Be A Dancer”.
Thirdly, there’s remixes. Portishead’s spy-thriller distortion of “Wild Wood” (from a 1994 NME EP) still sounds great. Ditto Noonday Underground’s sinister shake-up of Heliocentric’s “There’s No Drinking After You’re Dead”.
Finally, there’s the Button Downs (reverse of Pin-Ups?geddit?) covers CD; ad hoc homages to CSNY (“Ohio”), Dylan (“I Shall Be Released”) and others. As well as unreleased takes on Ben Harper’s “Waiting On An Angel” and The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down”, there’s “Instant Karma”, only previously available on last year’s Uncut Lennon tribute compilation (Take 66). It’s an intriguing epilogue, though Fly On The Wall is merited on the strength of its first two thirds alone, where Weller emerges as a prolific songwriter whose will to experiment has proved integral to his survival. The 10-year diary of a changing man, this is compulsive listening.