Paul Weller, Wake Up the Nation
A reminder of rock 'n' roll's ability to galvanize and inspire
There's something touchingly naïve about the title of Paul Weller's 10th solo album. Oh, look, the aging punk rocker thinks music can still rouse the populace and instigate social change — how quaint! But there's nothing doe-eyed or rose-tinted about the music. Weller, 52, draws on a lifetime of immersion in different genres — not just the Jam's blunt punk or the Style Council's suave R&B, but '70s glam, '60s orchestral pop, Faces-style boogie, vaudevillian swing and even scratchy, old-school hip-hop — and he and producer/co-songwriter Simon Dine wad it all up into a dense, evocative melange that strikes a defiant note at the outset and barely relents until the final chord fades.
In "Fast Car/Slow Traffic," featuring former Jam bassist Bruce Foxton, abrasive guitars and spacey keyboards give way to plinky, out-of-tune piano; the instrumental "In Amsterdam" feels like a claustrophobic, computerized lounge. "Find the Torch, Burn the Plans" builds an anthem from strident rhythms, pretty guitar noodling, muted background cymbals, creaky electronica and chorusing "sha la la"'s. Hardly a textural overlay or tempo shift seems weak or gratuitous; the album is so thoroughly conceptualized and cohesively realized that it plays like one long, multi-faceted, flawlessly paced song.
Wake Up the Nation isn't likely to solve the mortgage crisis or send pitchfork-wielding McDonald's customers into the street demanding minimally processed food, but it's an uncompromising reminder of rock 'n' roll's ability to galvanize and inspire, one soul at a time.