The big news with Paul Weller‘s tenth solo album is that it finds him working with bassist Bruce Foxton on two new songs, and as any real Jam fan will admit, this is probably as close to a Jam reunion as we’ll ever see.
The story behind 2/3’s of the Jam collaboration is, unfortunately, based in tragedy: Weller recently lost his father and Foxton his wife. The good news is that loss has not only prompted Weller to rekindle with former bandmates, but to reconnect with the sounds of his past to create an audio scrapbook that has him creatively moving forwards.
“My faith has been sure inspired / I’m schooled in the textile time,” Weller declares right out of the gate, hinting at the fire under his ass as of late and the impressiveness of his wardrobe collection.
While his daily attire might change as often as the singles in his jukebox, the image he’s projecting with Wake Up The Nation is fun, honest, and as uncluttered as a well-worn pair of Levis and an un-ironed t-shirt.
From that ivory-pounding opener “Moonshine,” to the anthemic title track, to the Northern Soul heartbreak of “No Tears To Cry,” Wake Up The Nation passes by so fast that you’ll be knee deep into it before realizing how many awesome moments have passed by in the whirlwind.
The ease with which he delivers such a song-by-song winner not only makes Wake Up The Nation such a surprise, it completely erases any missteps that Weller may have taken during his solo career. It has the uncanny ability to become a great starting point for not only the novice, but also for any jaded fan that may have grown intolerant of his prior indiscretions.
Wake Up The Nation is a sixteen-track aural love letter to the power of music, its ability to heal and to build bridges. If one considers the low-ebb that must have been Nation‘s starting point, you can certainly hear the smile that it ended up becoming. It’s also an effort that once again finds Weller making music with purpose instead of just making music because it’s expected of him.
“I could be stable / I might be fine / I don’t want to fuck it up this time,” he sings on “7 And 3 Is The Strikers Name,” the trippy workout with My Bloody Valentine‘s Kevin Shields that almost singlehandedly points at how Weller has a lot of mental sweat equity in the grooves of this disc.
The track is Nation‘s best moment, but let me preface that statement by saying that I plan on playing this album a lot over the summer, so the distinction of its “best moment” will probably change throughout the season.
As of right now, however, it’s top of the pops because it manages to touch on Weller’s past influences while managing to turn toward an intriguing and promising future, all in the span of a three-and-a-half minute freak-out.
It’s vintage Weller, not in the sense of its sound, but in terms of this iconic Englishman testing our limits and his own. Wake Up The Nation finds Paul Weller adding to his legacy once more instead of merely trying to repeat it.