Illumination is a good title for this LP, as the mood is lighter and the production crisper than on his last LP, Helioentric, which sounded in parts like the work of an unhappy man who’d just hit 40. In fact, Illumination is the most up-beat and positive LP Weller has crafted since his solo debut. Much of the angsty griping of yore has been replaced by songs of celebration (Who Brings Joy, It’s Written in the Stars), wonderment (Leafy Mysteries), and love (Now the Night is Here). There are plenty of good tunes, and a mood piece (yes, a mood piece).
Stomping gripe-rock numbers get a rare look-in in the forms of ‘A Bullet for Everyone’ and ‘Call me No.5’. But these songs now sound a bit retro-macho, whereas five years ago they wouldn’t have. He continues to mature, like all of us, and so, on the rest of the album Paul Weller sounds mellower, writing more from the heart. In doing so he sounds authentic, contemporary, and soulful. As with all Paul Weller albums, there are some great musical moments, nay, events, within great songs. For example, the swirling, descending strings in the coda of ‘Now the Night is Here’ flip an impassioned love song within seconds into a nightmarish existential question. Minimalist brilliance.
Paul Weller is also singing better than ever. He has a truly great voice, something which never grabbed me so forcefully before this album. If you are passionate about great songwriting and artistry expressed within the rock and similar idioms, then I would unhesitatingly recommend this LP.