Album: Paul Weller, "Wake Up the Nation" (Yep-Roc)
Of the 10 albums Paul Weller has issued in his post-Jam and Style Council career, "Wake Up the Nation" is the one to take him back to his roots, connecting the styles of records he liked in his youth with his contemporary output.
"Wake Up the Nation" is brimming with soulfulness and soul-inspired, rudimentary rock 'n' roll, a celebration of grooves and the pop-punk route taken by the likes of Elvis Costello and XTC in the early 1980s when Weller opted for the silky smoothness of Style Council.
Weller is not afraid to mix and match anything here: "7 & 3 is the Striker's Name" is as arty as it is intentionally clumsy in its execution, a bit of twisted guitar-storm rumblings, off-kilter drum rhythms and piano clanging underneath a propulsive melody about star-crossed lovers with plenty of "sha-la-la"s. Imagine a stormy night on which the radio is trying to pull in early Van Morrison and King Crimson simultaneously.
The aforementioned "7 & 3" feeds into the more stable and powerful "Up the Dosage," which, along with "Fast Car/Slow Traffic" and the title track, is a bit of a throwback to three decades ago when certain British punks saw an opening on the pop charts and ran with it.
The songs on "Wake Up the Nation" are short and forceful, like the great R&B all the mods grew up on, whether they were from the eras of the Who or the Jam. One track in particular, "No Tears to Cry," is a superb reconnection with the days when Dusty Springfield and Tom Jones were credible soul singers, a route Weller has never taken as sincerely as he does here.