This is going to be the last Mercury vs Neptune that I do, for the winner is announced tomorrow evening, and I am not up for a 24 hour album-reviewing marathon. I mean it might be fun, but these actually take quite a bit of time and effort, and I was hoping to have some sleep and that sort of thing. Obviously I was also hoping to get all the albums reviewed by the announcement, but I have proved to be too busy for that! Apologies to the ten artists who I didn’t get round to; I’m sure they’ll learn to live with it.
I’ve picked Paul Weller and his Neptune counterpart 65daysofstatic partly because he has apparently just become the favourite to win. Hence, to maximise potential relevance, you are going to hear my views on the old-Jam-man’s new one, ‘Wake Up The Nation’.
This, Mr Weller’s tenth solo album apparently, got lots of acclaim from various media sorts, and the Mercury nomination has added to this. But my only exposure to it has been via his appearance on Jools, and I wasn’t all that impressed; it all seemed a bit lumpen and uninteresting. But now, having listened to it a few times, I’m not sure thats entirely right. For one thing, the songs here are short; mostly around 2 and a half minutes, which lowers the danger of them dragging on and wearing out their welcome. Good. And these songs also seem to show more imagination than I expected from my brief exposure to the album; there is more sonic variety here than you’d imagine. ‘In Amsterdam’ is a short, swirly-organ led instrumental, ‘She Speaks’ opens with some feedback, and several songs are (relatively) weird, compared to Weller’s usual fare (‘Find the Torch/Burn the Plans’, ‘Whatever Next’). ‘Trees’ moves through several different musical sections in it’s four minutes, including a flute and a piano croon, and ‘7&3 Is the Striker’s Name’ even features Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine, though I wouldn’t have guessed it from listening. Make more noise Kevin!
The title track doesn’t do a huge amount for me, I have to say. The idea of Paul Weller (52) making a pronouncement to the nation, and ‘Waking it up’ with the sheer force of his energy and creativity, seemed a little embarrassing to me, especially when the track itself is one that retreads a lot of Weller’s already well trodden past territory. Also, it contains Weller barking the line “get your face out the facebook”, which is just shit. There is also the lyric “My cock was hard as wood” elsewhere on the album, which was a particular lyrical lowlight. None of that please Paul.
But aside from his general ‘Modfather’ schtick, it seems that Weller has actually done quite a good job with the album. 16 songs go past in 40 or so minutes, and there is enough variety between song styles to keep it interesting. It’s not nearly as ‘avant-garde’ or experimental as some reviews have suggested (seriously, go and investigate John Cage or These New Puritans or something), but from a well established mainstream artist, it’s refreshing to see a a will to try something a bit new and different. ‘Wake Up The Nation’ has pleasantly surprised me; it’s not mind-blowing, but it is pretty good.
65daysofstatic have, you will have noticed, a more exciting name than Paul Weller (not his fault I know), and I also like the title of their Neptune nominated album, ‘We Were Exploding Anyway’. Their sound is also exciting; a frantic electronic-techno-post-rock sort of thing (a bit hard to describe). Techno beats and synths mix with loud guitars and rumbling bass, to create an interesting hybrid beast that simultaneously rocks, and inspires frantic dancing.
(This review will be finished soon, but I felt the need to publish before the Mercury winner is revealed. Hopefully though, Drowned in Sound will leave it a bit to announce the Neptune, so I can finish 65’s review before they win/lose. I’ve got stuff to do, sorry!)