In 2008, Paul Weller realized two milestones: he turned 50 and he released 22 Dreams, an album many fans and critics didn’t think he still had in him. Long story short, it put him back on top – a place he’d not been for a decade and a half.
Weller has consistently released good music since he solidified the line up of The Jam in 1976. But, as one might imagine, with a career spanning two groups (The Jam, The Style Council) and now entering its third decade as a solo artist, some albums have been met with a better reception than others.
When 22 Dreams came out, it was a breath of fresh air. You could almost hear the international cry of, “He’s back!” for it marked a return of the man many consider to be the Modfather … and a platinum selling album, his first since 1995’s Stanley Road. Many others wondered what could be next and how could he possibly top it.
That, my friend is where Wake Up the Nation comes in.
The new album forges deeper into new territory for Weller, while giving a nod to his past … something he’s gradually learned to embrace over the last few years. This is a full on return to Jam-inspired rock for Weller, something old skool fans will appreciate. Plus, former band mate Bruce Foxton (The Jam) plays bass on two tracks, marking the first time in 28 years that the two have worked together (the pair had only recently gotten reacquainted, having spent the better part of two decades on the outs).
Yet, one can’t praise (or write off, depending on your predilection) Wake Up the Nation as a return of The Jam, even though he’s now more closely aligned musically with his old band than he has ever been in his solo career. Simply put, Weller has once again transformed himself, as he has periodically throughout his career. But, what sets Wake Up the Nation apart is that he’s found a way to incorporate all of the best elements of his past work without overwhelming or diminishing the new direction. His dalliance with the Acid Jazz scene of the early ’90s is present. His blue-eyed soul experimentation is back. His inclinations which brought about the Britpop movement of the mid ’90s are here.
Weller found his groove in 2008 and has been successfully mining that vein ever since. As a result, he’s putting out the best material of his career.