(Various Artists) – “Open Season” (2006)

August 9, 2008 at 6:15 pm (Music, Paul Westerberg, Reviews & Articles)

Written Aug. 24, 2007…

Though not technically a Paul Westerberg album (due to there being other artists on it), it is about three-quarters of a new Westerberg album. The soundtrack to last year’s children’s movie of the same name, this is a strange place to find St. Paul and an even stranger place to find perhaps his two finest solo songs ever.

“Meet Me in the Meadow” and “Love You in the Fall” have got to be his two most infectious, rocking and memorable songs since the heyday of the late, beloved Replacements. Okay, let me state it another way: these songs are INSTANT CLASSICS! The kind you simply don’t find much these days. Just for these two songs alone, it’s worth the price of admission. They simply have everything we ever loved about Westerberg. Hooks, catchy, sing-along choruses, great lyrics. They sound like long-lost gems circa 1987. One listen to these songs and you feel like you have known them all your life (just like all of Paul’s best songs over the years). Why is it so hard to write songs like these anymore? Why can’t anyone write a decent melody these days? I don’t know. But then again, Paul just simply makes it look easier than it is. He himself hasn’t written these type of Replacement-like songs since…well, not since the glory days of the Replacements. He has made many wayward albums over the years, as well as many great ones. But here he does what he does better than any other songwriter on this earth, just to show us he simply can still do it. And it’s a joy to behold.

Maybe the reason why he returned to that sound is due to the fact of former ‘Mat bandmate Tommy Stinson helping out. Or perhaps he invited Stinson to contribute to the proceedings because of the fact that these songs have that Replacements-like sound…? And if it took writing songs for a children’s movie to bring out the best in Paul again, I’m all for him doing more soundtracks.

The next song “I Belong,” is another great song from the master – one of his slow, heartfelt, heart-on-sleeve weepers. The kind that the Goo Goo Dolls borrowed from him and took all the way to the bank. The album ends in an orchestrated version of the song by Pete Yorn, that he does very well and which I think may have been up for an award. I’m not positive though. Anyhow, I like both versions.

“Any Better Than This” is a happy-go-lucky song with an infectious melody. Hard not to smile while listening to it.

“Right to Arm Bears” is another rocking song, with Paul’s great use of wordplay (check out that title again). Another memorable, catchy chorus. If you aren’t humming at least one of these songs three weeks after hearing them, there is something wrong with you my friends. And why these songs weren’t Top 10 hits is just another crime against humanity. It still amazes me that Paul never reached the top of the charts (the way his imitators did). But I guess he is just resigned to his fate as a semi-famous cult artist. Maybe it’s all for the best.

“Good Day” is a ringer on the album. This heartfelt tribute to former Replacement Bob Stinson (in the wake of his unfortunate early death) is taken from his 1996 solo album Eventually. It sounds great no matter where it is though. This is one of the great happy-to-be-alive songs of our generation. And done by someone who usually does not write optimistic songs.

“All About Me” is another winner, as is “Whisper Me Luck,” which has a quieter folkier feel to it, highlighted by acoustic guitar and harmonica.

The album also includes Talking Heads’ 1986 hit “Wild Wild Life,” which probably doesn’t need to be on here (although I guess it was featured in the movie) but always sounds good no matter what.

The group Deathray (of which I admit I know nothing about) also have two songs on here. I’m not sure if they were written for the movie or when they were recorded but they are actually very enjoyable. They are in more of a punk-pop direction with some touches of electronica. Both quite memorable. I would like to hear more from this band in the future.

And that wraps it up. Definitely worth investigating if you are a lifelong Westerberg fan. If you lost touch with him over the years, now would be a good time to jump back on board. And if you have never heard the man, this is just as good a place as any to begin.

The master is back and not a moment too soon.

 

Paul Westerberg

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