Paul Weller has always been one to break with convention, whether draping himself in a Union Jack jacket amid punk's sea of leather and safety pins or confounding mod purists with the ever-changing moods of the jazz-inflected Style Council
. In recent years, the 40-something Weller has segued into more pensive territory, but his mostly acoustic material retains an incisive edge, particularly when he lets his guard down and mulls what lies deep within, as he does on the album-closing title track. His voice has taken on something of a burnished rasp, evoking Faces-era Rod Stewart (or '90s-era Steve Winwood) on percolating tracks like "Going Places" and "Leafy Mysteries." Although no longer as overt a sloganeer as he was in his younger days, Weller does conjure up ghosts of In the City
on the rough-and-tumble antiwar missive "A Bullet for Everyone." Similarly, the roiling "Bag Man," which follows an ostensibly homeless narrator through his travails, paints a picture every bit as vivid as the one Weller detailed in "Down in the Tube Station at Midnight." And while he's known primarily as a storyteller, Weller takes a stab at expressing himself entirely sans lyrics on "Spring (At Last)," an Indian-flavored instrumental featuring the sarod
playing of former Stone Roses guitarist Aziz Ibrahim. Guest stars abound -- Noel Gallagher
on the dense, driving "One X One," Stereophonics
' prime mover Kelly Jones on the bluesy "Call Me #5" -- but Illumination
's brightest light is the one shining from deep within Weller himself.