Paul Weller - Wake Up The Nation (Island)
Jim Pusey | Sunday, 06 June 2010
The Modfather's renaissance continues with new album Wake Up The Nation. It's a little more focussed than 2008's 22 Dreams and, in honesty, that's no bad thing.
Undeniably one of the greatest songwriters of his generation, Weller has experimented throughout his career. The last studio effort was an eclectic treasure trove of different styles. This theme continues with the new album, but with only 3 of the 16 tracks creeping over the 3-minute mark, there's little time for extravagance on Wake Up The Nation.
Opener 'Moonshine' bristles with energy as Jerry Lee Lewis inspired pianos hold down a cascade of guitars and feedback that create a wall of sound. Title track 'Wake Up The Nation' keeps up the pace whilst Weller considers his perspective on life: "Get your face out of facebook, and turn off the phone, the death of the post-box, nowhere feels home." Weller isn't really being the grumpy old man that the declaration seems to suggest, his nostalgia is just for a more innocent and less isolated time. If his intention was to recreate the past, this album could have been a far more melancholy and reflective affair.
That's not to say that there aren't homages to certain aspects of his back catalogue and beyond. 'Fast Car/Slow Traffic' bears more than a passing resemblance to latter day Jam material with it's punk vocal and frenetic guitar and piano combo. 'No Tears To Cry' meanwhile offers a ballad with strings that sounds as if it were written for Dusty Springfield. 'Andromeda' subsequently revisits acid soaked psychedelic rock and 'Up The Dosage' even sounds like it's sampling the Thunderbirds' theme tune.
There's also a sense that Wake Up The Nation is more about creating a joyous noise rather than a lyrically heavy record. Instrumentals 'In Amsterdam' and 'Whatever Next' don't feel like breaks between tracks, but simply extensions of what you've already heard. The more extreme experimentation that Weller undertakes can be found on '7&3 Is The Strikers Name' as the musicians fight for prominence through bursts of feedback.
Wake Up The Nation is therefore Weller's way of growing old gracefully. It's a record filled with musical surprises and is crafted by someone with the ability to bring disparate elements together, while creating interesting 2 minute pop songs. It's by no means perfect, but is a reminder that Weller's best work may not be behind him.