Review : Paul Weller - Wake Up the Nation
PitchforkPaul Weller has said that his most recent album, 2008's 22 Dreams, was in many ways a response to turning 50. It was a gift to himself-- creating something indulgent, sprawling, and guest-heavy. Then again, Weller has never cared what anyone else thinks about him. This is a guy who disbanded the Jam at the peak of its popularity, did the same with the Style Council, then went solo and emerged if anything even more popular than before. Heck, he even dismissed most of his band before recording 22 Dreams, preferring a start-from-scratch approach.
One familiar name who returns on Wake Up the Nation is frequent Weller producer and collaborator Simon Dine, who reportedly first delivered several of these songs to Weller in sketchy, abstract form and thus inspired the man to dive back into work. The biggest name enlisted to flesh out this rollicking and free-ranging set, however, is My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields, who crops up on "7&3 Is the Strikers Names" to help further blur the edges of the wobbly psych-rock confection. Move/ELO drummer Bev Bevan shows up on a couple of tracks-- the deliriously loose title track and opener "Moonshine", which finds Weller in ramshackle, rough-around-the-edges VU territory. And then there's the unlikely presence of former Jam cohort Bruce Foxton on bass, recording with Weller for the first time in nearly three decades. In fact, the propulsive low end runs of "Fast Car/Slow Traffic" almost seem designed to showcase Foxton and reference Weller's old sound....full text
GuardianOn his 25th studio album it takes a matter of minutes for Paul Weller to slip into grumpy old codger mode. "Get your face out the Facebook, and turn off the phone," he grumbles, which rather suggests that, like Peter Kay's grandmother insisting on the existence of something called the "tinternet", Paul Weller thinks Facebook comes with a definite article attached. "What with the death of the postbox," he adds, "nowhere feels home."
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Wake Up The Nation
Taken out of context, the lyric seems to confirm your worst fears. Perhaps 2008's remarkable, turbulent, chaotic 22 Dreams was merely a temporary blip, a clearing of the avant-garde pipes before a return to what came before it, when his albums resembled the kind of TV dramas you get at 8pm on a Sunday – cosily undemanding, so predictable you could set your watch by them, riven with rose-tinted nostalgia for an oddly non-specific era of the past in which everything was supposedly better than it is now. You could see why it happened: with the Style Council, he nearly succeeded in wrong-footing himself out of a career, with all but the most ardent of fans manning the lifeboats around the time of the film JerUSAlem, which featured among its many knuckle-gnawing moments Weller as the Canute-like "Paul Welly", loudly protesting the sea's effect on his genitals ("Go back! For my parts do freeze!"). Nevertheless, that didn't make the combination of grunty man-rock and reactionary sentiment that has been a staple of his solo career any more edifying.
But no: the complaint about "the Facebook" is set to a backing so excitable it sounds less like a fiftysomething's grumble than a strident call to arms. If anything, Wake Up the Nation – 16 songs in under 40 minutes – ventures even further out than its predecessor. You can tell as much from the credits: there are guitars by My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields and vocals by the Woking Gay Community choir, the latter, alas, merely a pseudonym for Weller's daughter. The fearless try-anything spirit of Paul Welly, it seems, is still alive and well....full text
Telegraphnexplicably for an artist who had built a career on dramatic change, for much of the Noughties Paul Weller seemed trapped in the dull musical waters of “Dadrock”. But in 2008, Weller, nearly 50, sacked his band, hooked up with an aspiring producer, Simon Dine, and struck back with 22 Dreams, his most experimental record in ages, which, by no coincidence, became his biggest seller in a decade.
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Two years on, he’s back with an even bolder creation, this time sounding every bit as urgent and angry as he was in his youthful Jam days.
Some of this is down to the surprising enlistment of Bruce Foxton, the Jam’s bassist, on two songs; after 28 years of public bickering, Weller, whose father was dying, reportedly phoned up Foxton, whose wife was terminally ill, and the hatchet was quickly buried. Both have been subsequently bereaved, but this album spills over with life.
Where 22 Dreams was pastoral and rambling, Wake Up the Nation is off the wall yet to the point, its 16 tracks shoehorned into 40 action-packed minutes. Dine apparently pushed the singer to abandon folky whimsy, in favour of a chaotic, urban wall of sound.
It opens with Moonshine, a blast of rollicking rock ’n’ roll touched more by Little Richard than Weller’s familiar Mod heroes, then briskly launches into the title track’s stomping tirade against 21st-century living. “Get your face out of Facebook and switch off your phone,” he snarls. The frantic, conflicted big-city energy cranks up even higher on Fast Car/Slow Traffic, while Find the Torch, Burn the Plans carries all the gleeful insurrection of a student demo.
These anthemic moments are brilliantly sequenced among esoteric oddities like the waltzy instrumental In Amsterdam and the pocket life-cycle suite Trees. The second half goes totally out-there, with My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields popping up to trowel guitar feedback all over one track....full text
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