There are times when the UK seems to trump the US in nearly all things music-related. There are better TV shows; Later With Jools Holland and Spectacle Elvis Costello With... certainly top Total Request Live. There are better magazines; Q, NME, Uncut, and Mojo make Rolling Stone and Spin look like minimalistic high school zines that pander to favorites and voice opinion as fact. There’s more music chart diversity, but to be fair, this isn’t to say the UK charts are always superior or selective. After all, The Spice Girls stormed up their charts before they did the US charts.
And as is the case with many British acts, their CDs are released in the UK weeks before they are released in the States. Case in point Paul Weller’s Wake Up the Nation, which hit UK shelves earlier this week and arrives in American stores June 1. According to early sales information, the album will most likely debut at the #1 spot when the charts are updated Sunday. As of Wednesday, his record was selling 30% more copies than AC/DC's second-placed Iron Man OST. None of this is probably on the proverbial radar of most American music fans. Weller has only had one Top 40 single in the states in his 30 plus years of recording. That was My Ever Changing Moods with The Style Council in 1984. But calling Weller a one-hit wonder is about as accurate as calling Tiger Woods a good husband.
He has been making records for over 30 years, but Wake Up the Nation arrives with some seemingly unprecedented hype. Q magazine has just given it a five-star review. Mojo and Uncut gave it four stars, respectively. NME said it’s and 8/10 album, and British newspapers The Guardian and The Telegraph have both blessed in with five-star reviews. We will have to wait to see what US critics think – that is if they review it at all.
For being arguably the most enduring and innovative artist of his generation, Weller barely gets a footnote in the US media. (Jay Leno once called him Peter Weller … yes, the RoboCop guy). No US tour dates have been announced yet, but he plans on coming to the States later this year to promote the album. He usually plays New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and that’s about it. Louisville, would be the ideal additional tour spot for a few reasons: he gets good radio play on WFPK, music fans in this town are generally educated and know who he is, there are numerous venues in town to choose from, and our location is perfect for fans who otherwise would not likely travel quite so far to see him (i.e. Cincinnati, Nashville, St. Louis, Atlanta, etc.)
Previews of the album suggest it is a bit leaner and concise than his ambitious 22 Dreams from 2008. Wake Up The Nation is reportedly loaded with short songs full of fire and skill. Former Jam bandmate Bruce Foxton even plays bass on two songs, again proof that Weller seems to be mellowing with age. Just four years ago when asked about the possibility of a Jam eunion, Weller said that he and his children "would have to be destitute and starving in the gutter before I'd even consider that." Well 2/3 of The Jam have recorded again. But there are also plenty of unexpected musical flourishes on the album as well, something fans have come to expect. Interesting instrumentation, a diversity of styles, some retro sounding tunes, and undeniable melodies all combine to mean high praise from the British press.
Incidentally, if you pre-order the new CD through Weller’s US label, Yep Rock, you will also get a free copy of Hit Parade, a career spanning CD that includes, Jam, Style Council, and solo hits. Now that is a deal that far exceeds any buy-one get-one free offer that ShamWow guy could offer.