As a solo artist, Paul Weller has rarely gotten enough credit—at least in America—for the diversity and creativity of his output. Weller’s gotten wilder as he’s gotten older, taking more of an experimental approach than he ever did with mod-punk legends The Jam or slick soulsters The Style Council. Weller’s latest, Wake Up The Nation, is full of short songs suffused with a jittery vibe, and many of its 16 tracks sound like three or four songs crammed together. The record features Jam bassist Bruce Foxton on two tracks, and collaborations with My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields and septuagenarian rock drummer Clem Cattini, but mainly it’s Weller’s show, as he purges the contents of his music-addled head.
Sometimes the layers of sound and noise merely mask a weak hook, but more often Weller is just bursting with ideas. He scales down Phil Spector pop on the catchy “No Tears To Cry,” does a homegrown version of Krautrock on “Fast Car/Slow Traffic,” marries a cabaret croon to incompatible guitar-pop on “Andromeda,” recalls late ’60s foreign film soundtracks on “In Amsterdam,” extends a bridge to song-length on the psychedelic “She Speaks,” samples Blood, Sweat & Tears on the funky “Aim High,” goes glam-disco on “Up The Dosage,” and blends Harry Nilsson, Pete Townshend, and Quincy Jones on the sublimely batshit “Trees.” Taken all together, Wake Up The Nation is either a standout album from a brilliant career, or utter wankery. One thing’s certain: It ain’t dull.