Paul Weller

Wake Up the Nation

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AllMusic Review by

Prior to 2008’s 22 Dreams, Paul Weller was shorthand for stalwart rock & roll, never disappointing but rarely challenging, either. With 22 Dreams, he reconnected with his spirit of adventure -- the thing that drove him to split up the Jam at their peak to form the Style Council -- and created a rich pastoral double album that thrived on risk. Buzzing with guitars and gurgling effects, and built upon a succession songs that barely crest the two-minute mark, Wake Up the Nation doesn’t share much with 22 Dreams, apart from that sense of adventure with Weller cramming a suite’s worth of twists into a song. As packed as these tunes are, they’re drawn with crisp lines; for as busy as these are, nothing feels cluttered, they’re all teeming with life. Many of the left turns arrive via the arrangements -- witness how everything careens out of control after the chorus of “Grasp & Still Connect,” the elastic psychedelia of “Andromeda,” the updated New Orleans shuffle of “Trees’ -- or the unexpected collaborations, whether it’s the tightly wound reunion with the Jam’s Bruce Foxton on “Fast Car/Slow Traffic” or bringing in My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields to craft the dense dangerous heartbeat of “7&3 Is the Strikers Name,” but this isn’t window-dressing: the entire effect is 22 Dreams in reverse, contracting where its predecessor expanded, substituting introspection for action, swapping contemplation for excitement. Wake Up the Nation pulsates with an energy considerably different than the stomping rock & roll of As Is Now. That was all musical muscle, but this is music of the mind that remains fiercely visceral, music that feels of a piece of Weller’s entire body of work, but is quite unique in its execution and impact.

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