Paul Weller 

Wake Up the Nation

Discussions of musical reinvention and exploration are generally dominated by marquee names like David Bowie, U2, and Neil Young. But Paul Weller wouldn't be out of place in their company. The Jam's mod-punk verve and the Style Council's cocktail jazz-pop cool represented a broad sonic spectrum for Weller. But his solo career has been even more wildly navigated — from Traffic-flavored folk-rock to pastoral pop musings to visceral modern punk. On his past two studio albums, 2005's As Is Now and 2008's 22 Dreams, Weller synthesized his early punk/pop freneticism with the subdued but bristling reflection of his later work to create two of the best albums of his career. Anyone up for a trilogy? On Wake Up the Nation, Weller ratchets up the intensity to near-Jam levels and sounds positively rejuvenated. The album's opener, "Moonshine," powered by the thunderous beat of ex-Move drummer Bev Bevan, crackles and kicks with giddy abandon, like a lost Elvis Costello and the Attractions track, while the swaggering title track breathes mature fire like the Buzzcocks' second coming. Weller never forgets his solo evolution — from the Kinks/Faces swing of "No Tears to Cry" to the melodic psych-pop discord of "Andromeda" to the magical misery tourism of "Find the Torch, Burn the Plans." Wake Up the Nation is more than just a great Paul Weller album; it's a sonic manifesto, a promise that he can revisit the past, reinvent it for the present, and kick it flailing into the future. — Brian Baker

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