Tuesday, 14 August 2018
Paul Weller - Wake Up The Nation (2010)
Released April 2010
Recorded at Black Barn Studios, Woking
After the diverse, sprawling occasional genius that was 2008's "22 Dreams", Paul Weller changed tack slightly again with this raucous, badly-produced but lively and appealing album. In my opinion, the production is dense, grating and hissy. Maybe it is intended to be like that. Weller was intending to achieve a phrasing, industrial set of sound. There is lots of intentional "crackling" bits on it too, which always annoy me, particularly on "Wake Up The Nation".
That said, there are some genuinely good, vibrant, upbeat songs on here. "Moonshine" is a rollicking, piano-driven short sharp rocker, while the afore-mentioned "Wake Up The Nation" is still a good, powerful song with a killer hook. "No Tears To Cry" has a sort of sixties, melodic pop sound, almost like The Walker brothers in places. "Fast Car/Slow Traffic" saw the long-awaited return of old Jam bandmate Bruce Foxton on bass, on a frenetic, breakneck punky thrash that had echoes, funnily enough, of Foxton's "London Traffic" from The Jam's "This Is The Modern World". Great to hear that rubbery bass intro-ing the song, though. There are lot of short, pacy songs on here that are very difficult to categorise. It really is an extremely odd album in places. You get jazzy piano breaks popping up here and there, then a thumping clubby drum beat, followed by buzzsaw guitars and wailing organ. Beatles string orchestration surfaces on occasions. All sorts of strange stuff. "Andromeda" is another strange one, but with an oddly captivating hook to it. Again, though, it is over in two minutes. Yet again, also, the scratchy productions spoils it in many ways.
"In Amsterdam" is a bizarre, grating, high -pitched instrumental piece with jazzy undertones. At times I really struggle to wonder where this album is leading, yet at the same time, I find it sort of puzzling addictive. "She Speaks" is two more minutes of ethereal, mournful, airy, muddy vocals from Weller. It is rather like an album of potential songs that never quite get there, unlike those on "22 Dreams", which is a far more realised piece of work.
"Find The Torch/Burn The Plans" is longer, a more fulfilled, punchy number, but, once more, despite its great hook, the sound is awful, rendering it almost unlistenable, and my sound system is a good one too. "Aim High" has me relieved to hear some rich, warm, funky sounds on what is the best song on the album so far. It still has sound problems though, but it is comparatively an improvement. The song features some punchy horns and some swirling, jazzy orchestration. A clue to exactly how bad these songs sound, however, is that on their live versions on the "Find The Torch" DVD box set, they sound immeasurably better. I have seen Weller in concert many times, and he played material from this album at The Brighton Centre in 2010 and it was truly superb.
I understand what Weller was trying to achieve on "Trees", a comparatively lengthy tribute to his parents divided into three parts, but it wanders into almost a haughty self-parody at times and just sounds clunky, clumsy and ill-conceived. It saddens me to write this because I completely "get" the sentiments of the song. I think the lyrics are great. "Grasp And Still Connect" is a jaunty, likeable upbeat song with some reasonable passages somewhat spoiled by some deafening orchestration and weird sixties organ noises. "Whatever Next" is a short instrumental, that, bizarrely, has some of the best bass lines on the album. "7 & 3 Is The Striker's Name" (quite what the title means I am not sure!) is a pounding, beguiling number that has an odd attraction. Again, the kitchen sink has been thrown in, sonically, without any real need, as far as I am concerned. "Up The Dosage" is another refreshingly bassy pumper, that goes some way to restoring the album's quality in these final few tracks.
"Pieces Of A Dream" starts with that awful, scratchy background noise again, and at times it is not a bad song. But it goes all over the place at times, never getting anywhere. "Two Fat Ladies" has a punky, raucous intensity but a muffled vocal, again.
I have to apologise for being so negative about this album, but I just see it as half-baked and not getting anywhere near the potential that some of the songs had places. I feel "22 Dreams", "Sonik Kicks" and certainly "Saturn's Pattern" and "A Kind Revolution" are all far superior. I admire the desire to experiment from Weller, but this time I feel it failed, coming over as the work of a mad professor and his totally bonkers production assistant. His name? One Simon Dine. Sorry, Simon. No matter how many times I listen to this, it always sounds terrible. I play it every year in the hope that somehow it will have changed. It never does.
For some reason, this album is not included on Deezer.
- August 14, 2018