Under Review: Paul Weller – Wake Up The Nation

Who decides that an artist has turned their back on their critics?  There certainly seems to be a lot that each party can gain: the artist can indulge in previously unfavorable career moves, and the critics don’t have to worry about covering them anymore.  In many ways, Paul Weller has spent the bulk of his decades-long career frustrating and confounding even his most devoted acolytes.  Whether it was disbanding The Jam at their creative peak, exploring lush R&B-pop with The Style Council or tackling a myriad of styles on each of his solo records, Weller only seems interested in serving his own muse.  Over the past few years, Weller has taken a relatively straightforward rock approach to most of his solo output, but each record has contained numerous detours into soul, noise, funk and house music, to name a few.  In its uniqueness, Wake Up The Nation is no different, though it’s one of Weller’s best and most focused albums in years.  Wake Up The Nation follows one of Weller’s most ambitious recordings; the sprawling 22 Dreams which, though generally impressive, was too often overreaching in its sonic explorations.  Though Nation has plenty of genre experiments (such as the unnerving “Grasp And Still Connect” and the falsetto groove of “Aim High”), the songs’ short running times keep the album from dragging the way too many of Weller’s previous efforts did.

At just under 40 minutes, Nation is about half an hour shorter than 22 Dreams, but it packs in nearly as many ideas.  The gritty “7 & 3 Is The Striker’s Name” sounds like a sequel to “Echoes Round The Sun,” and “Fast Car/Slow Traffic” features bass work from Bruce Foxton, marking Weller’s first reunion with his former Jam-mate since 1982.  Since many the songs on Nation run into each other, the album plays like one big collage, showing off each of Weller’s musical interests just long enough before moving on.  Even the longest song, “Trees,” is a rollicking trip from the perspective of a former enchantress.  One thing I noticed while listening to Nation is that Weller is sounding an awful lot like Damon Albarn these days.  In reality, I’m sure it’s Albarn who’s been trying to sound like Weller, but it’s something I couldn’t overlook.  Despite the positive reviews it’s been getting,  Wake Up The Nation still carries that classic Weller attitude.  If you don’t like the album, he doesn’t care.  If you do like the album, he probably still doesn’t care.  No matter what’s on the horizon for Paul Weller, I’m sure that he’ll attack it with bravado.  I’ll be along for the ride, too, but since Weller isn’t one to look back, I’m sure he wouldn’t notice.

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~ by E. on May 28, 2010.

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