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Album review: Paul Weller's 'Wake Up the Nation'

June 1, 2010 |  5:33 pm

Paul_weller_240 Four tracks into the latest solo effort from Paul Weller, the one-time frontman of the Jam and Style Council, and he’s reunited with his former Jam bassist, Bruce Foxton. Those who study Brit-pop lore know the two are said to have gone about 20 years without speaking, reconnecting last year after suffering family tragedies.

“Fast Car/Slow Traffic” clocks in at under two minutes, and it’s a hectic little stop-and-start number of urban crankiness. Pianos come out of nowhere and keyboards zip in and out of fat rhythms, all while Weller snarls out his road rage. For Jam fans it will be utterly familiar, in the best sense — the sound of two old chums bonding in crabbiness.

Weller largely comes out firing on “Wake Up the Nation,” arguably his most aggressive and energetic solo effort. With 16 tracks in about 40 minutes, it’s more streamlined than his career-rejuvenating 2008 effort “22 Dreams.” “Get your face off the Facebook,” he sings on the bring-back-the-old-days rant that is the title track, and one can almost hear the spit hitting the microphone.

But this is not Weller being nostalgic. “Wake Up the Nation,” if anything, is at times too manically experimental. The album ricochets from the baroque psychedelics of “Andromeda” to the sexually frustrated soul of “Trees,” and then skids into the weird horror film mess of “7 & 3 Is the Strikers Name,” featuring My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields. By the time one reaches the over-the-top rhythm and blues silliness that is “Two Fat Ladies,” one is exhausted, having heard more song fragments than actual songs.

— Todd Martens

Paul Weller
“Wake Up the Nation”
Yep Roc
Two and a half stars (Out of four)

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