Paul Weller - Wake Up The Nation
Review by Jack Foley
PAUL Weller continues to dust off the cobwebs surrounding his image with new album Wake Up The Nation, a robust and even more experimental follow-up to 2008’s equally acclaimed 22 Dreams.
Comprised of a whapping 16 tracks, yet clocking in at a timely 40 minutes, this is the sort of LP that’s designed to exhaust and excite in equal measure.
Tracks fly thick and fast… some unapologetically loud, others just plain experimental, and some more mellow. There’s elements of punk, rock, psychedelia, soul and a willingness to subvert expectation at almost every turn. There’s anger, too, at the state of the country, at people’s obsessions with Facebook and phones, at musical apathy.
It’s as though the former Jam-man, having rediscovered his own cavalier groove, is issuing a rallying call for listeners to do the same. To shake off their own cobwebs, awaken from their mainstream induced slumber… to wake up!
Not everything is a success, and some tracks are just plain annoying. But when he hooks things up right – and he does so often – the results are thrilling.
Take the electronic flourishes and trippy tendencies that fly through Find The Torch, Burn The Plans, for instance… it’s provocative (“scream like you already know it”, “live your life every day”), loud, brash and just a really, really good rock-out.
Opening track Moonshine hits the ground running, with twinkling piano loops, chugging guitars and a down and dirty rawness that lays the ground rules early on: Weller isn’t standing on ceremony, he’s properly in your face. There’s traces of early Stones in its swagger.
Wake Up The Nation continues this trend, hitting a ’70s style rock swagger, and urging people to wake up, while No Tears To Cry offers an early – and rare – soulful interlude that offers a nice, if fleeting, contrast in tempos. It’s worth savouring, however, as the album quickly picks up the pace once more.
Fast Car/Slow Traffic, as its name suggests, darts in and out of riffs and piano chords, stop-starting the pace and frequently throwing in the odd breakdown designed to throw you a curve. It’s not one of the best tracks, but continues to underline Weller’s determination to be experimental and not sit still for a second.
It’s contrasted again by the willfully trippy instrumental In Amsterdam, which offers a psychedelic flourish quite possibly written while high, or the old school rock of Grasp & Still Connect, a rallying call to make sure you properly connect with people.
Another instrumental, Whatever Next, hits you with recorder loops and an electronic pulse that’s more Chemical Brothers than Weller at times, while Up The Dosage offers a thrilling slice of psychedelia infused rock that draws the album to its close.
But Weller seldom finds time to rest. And he almost seems to be making up for lost time, especially given that Wake Up The Nation marks the surprising enlistment of Bruce Foxton, the Jam’s bassist, on two songs… not to mention My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields to add plenty of reverb.
The result is epic in ambition, surprisingly brief in delivery, and comparable with Weller’s very best work. A wake up call indeed!
Download picks: No Tears To Cry, In Amsterdam, Find The Torch, Burn The Plans, Aim High, Up The Dosage, Pieces of a Dream