Paul Westerberg – “Eventually” (1996)

September 6, 2008 at 2:30 pm (Music, Paul Westerberg, Reviews & Articles)

Written November 13, 2004…

Having been a big admirer of Paul Westerberg since 1985, when he was the leader of the late, great Replacements, I have never understood the level of criticism leveled at his solo albums….especially this album. There are many longtime fans out there who seem to slag off Eventually as being some piece of tame, lame middle of the road hackwork. Nothing can be further from the truth.
I think alot of it may be due to the raucous, drunken legacy

 of The Replacements, which is unfortunate. Nobody can be young & crazy forever. The ones who try, either die in their prime or grow to be 60 & still try to act 18, which is even worse than death. Paul Westerberg quit drinking around the time of The Replacements’ demise and began to mature. Some people never will forgive Paul for simply growing up. 
His first solo album 14 Songs was an excellent, if slightly uneven record. Eventually in my opinion is his most fully realized solo album. Every song is excellent. It’s an album I have listened to hundreds of times over the past 8 years and I still love it as much now as I did back in 1996. That’s the sign of a great, timeless album to me. And it’s an album that holds together terrifically, meaning every song follows the last one perfectly. It’s a brilliantly realized sequence of songs. Each song builds on the previous one to create a sum that is greater than its parts.
It starts off brilliantly with “These Are the Days” and continues to simply grow as it goes along.
“Love Untold” is a heartbreaking ode to two potential lovers who never get a chance to meet. Westerberg’s attention to small details is captured as perfectly here as it’s ever been. It’s those small details that has made Westerberg one of the greatest, if unfortunately underrated songwriters of his generation. He captures all the heartbreak, the angst, the joy and the passion that we all feel from time to time. He knows how to convey what we all feel inside.
“Ain’t Got Me” is another excellent song that segues beautifully into “You’ve Had it With You.” That segue always leaves me breathless. Westerberg has always left me breathless with these little kinds of details. He doesn’t need flashy guitar solos or special effects to get your attention. He does it with the little things. Just like Dylan and Springsteen and Lennon and all the great songwriters throughout the ages. It could be a clever line or a slight inflection in his voice or a little, seemingly insignificant guitar riff. It all adds up though without you even realizing it until about the 8th listen. And then it all of a sudden clicks & quietly blows you away. This album has many, many instances of this. Which is why I just can’t figure out what people seem to miss with this album. Am I hearing something they’re not?
And “You’ve Had it With You” is just as raucous & reckless & rocking as anything from his past. But never sounds like some forced return to youth. He makes it all sound so effortless. But if it were this easy to write songs of this caliber, there would be no such thing as a bad song.
“MamaDaddyDid” reveals his ambivalence towards having children & his own parents’ inability to raise him. Although I guess he had a change of heart a few years later, when he did in fact have a child.
“Hide N Seekin” is probably the type of song that his fans crucify him for. They claim he has turned into a middle-aged soft-rock sell-out. But that’s ridiculous. This is a gentle but remarkable song. And as much as I love his adolescent songs of yore, like “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out,” I will take “Hide N Seekin” any day.
One of the most touching songs of his entire career comes towards the end. “Good Day,” a piano & strings-based ballad, is a hopeful, positive ode to being alive sung with heartfelt passion. A tribute to fallen, former Mats guitarist Bob Stinson, it is surprisingly upbeat coming from a cynical guy like Westerberg. “A good day is any day that you’re alive,” is about as positive a message as has ever been written. And whenever I hear this song, it does indeed make me feel happy to be alive, no matter what kind of pain I’m experiencing. I’m happy to be alive, if for no other reason than to be able to experience beautiful music such as this. The best music should always make you feel this way. I couldn’t imagine a world without The Beatles or “Rhapsody in Blue” or Pet Sounds. I couldn’t imagine a world without Frank Sinatra singing “I’ve Got the World on a String” or “I Get Along Without You Very Well.” They are simply a part of what makes living worth all the pain & disappointment & heartache we all experience.
I don’t want to come across like some sycophantic fan but I just cannot find anything wrong with this entire album. There have been songs by Paul that just haven’t clicked with me. Many in fact. But there are none on this album. They all speak to me. Catchy, tuneful, well-written songs with clever wordplay & that mean something. And to some people who think Paul lost his sense of humour & became too “mature” and “serious,” there are plenty of funny lines on this album, especially “You’ve Had it With You” or “MamaDaddyDid.”
Paul Westerberg has always had a knack of saying the things we wish we had thought of first. And he continues to this day, although I do believe that the albums he has released since Eventually have not lived up to that album’s eternal greatness. It’s difficult to make timeless art every time out, but he continues to try. God bless him. And why he’s never become big is as big of a mystery as the Bermuda Triangle. Especially since The Goo Goo Dolls became huge by ripping off Westerberg’s entire sound & style, which doesn’t mean I’m condemning them for it. Johnny Rzeznik has actually out-Westerberg’d Paul at times. But still Westerberg should have been a star, rather than merely a cult legend. It’s one of the great injustices in rock ‘n’ roll history. But that does not take away one bit from what he has accomplished. The masses can go to hell for all I care.
This is one of those albums where everything came together all at once and is clearly a lost classic in my opinion. Being one of my all-time favorites, I recommend this album to anyone open to what it has to offer. Listen to it 50 times if you have to. I promise it will reveal all of its brilliance with time.
And for those who continue to compare it unfairly to everything that came before it, you are truly missing out. But that’s your loss.
For me right now, I can’t stop listening to this great album. And I thank God for it.

Jay Mucci

 

11 Comments

  1. In the Blogs: Slim Pickin’s and questions of punctuation | Paul Westerberg.net, a blog said,

    […] The Beat Patrol does a nice write up for Our Man Paul’s 1996 release, Eventually and he likes it way, way more than I ever did. Eventually remains my least favorite of all of Westerberg’s albums. […]

  2. jmucci said,

    Give it another listen…it’s a great album.

  3. Dfactor said,

    Good stuff! Always been a fan of Eventually – used to crank These are the Days on Saturday AMs to rinse off the Friday drinking cobwebs – worked every time… 🙂

  4. Duffycat said,

    Eventually is a hard-edged pop rock masterpiece; the uneven, filler heavy 14 Songs was four songs too many and lacked cohesion. Eventually’s songs were easy to pass off for the developmentally arrested Mats listeners who probably couldn’t stand the introspective lyrics from their 36 year old idol, whose mid-life identity crisis mirrored their own. Some of Westerberg’s best songwriting is hear. It’s as brash and defiant and wounded, as anything in the Mat’s catalogue- except this time it’s adult angst. Best of all, this album rewards the careful listener with it’s perfectly produced songcraftmanship. In the nooks and cracks of this gem, one hears the little details; perfectly placed sonic hooks burrowed in arrangements that shine. If this was a Matthew Sweet album it would’ve been hailed a masterpiece. Westerberg, on the other hand, get’s clobbered by his ‘fans’ because he didn’t include any songs about puking on his shoes. One of my favorites.

  5. jmucci said,

    Excellent critique…I couldn’t agree more.

  6. mojohand said,

    A very under-appreciated album. I don’t get why a big chunk of his fan base didn’t care for these tunes–maybe the immaturity and arrested development argument explains it best? It has such great melodies….and poignancy. Not everything has to be loud electric guitar driven stuff with incomprehensible vocals. These are well crafted songs, with REAL sense of melody to them. I got what Paul was doing, I like it and enjoy this album. More’s the pity for those who don’t get it.

    • jmucci said,

      I could not agree with you more!! Thanks for the comment.

      • mojohand said,

        even to this day, he manages to split his fan base right in half. I dunno if he’s fully aware of the effect his material will have on the fans. but like any good artist, he shouldn’t care one bit; he has to be true to himself. There has always been an honesty about his music and he’s been rather candid in interviews too. It’s always refreshing to hear his thoughts.

        If you haven’t checked out his latest, it was kind of an under the radar release. No real marketing of the damn thing: “The Ghost Glove Cat Wing Joy Boys”. This split his fan base right in half due to its mostly acoustic nature. Some thought it might be leftovers from “Folker”.

        Also, nice blog/site! I just found it when searching for Westerberg stuff.

      • jmucci said,

        Did he just put it out? I’ve seen some of the other download-only things he’s released in the past year or 2. I’ll have to check it out. And yes, he’s a very interesting guy and does what he wants, and that’s what I love about him. He’s been one of my favorite songwriters for 25 years now. Thanks for the compliment too.

  7. mojohand said,

    It came out, unannounced, back in September 2009 or thereabouts. It just appeared one day on Amazon for download and I only found out about it thru word of mouth.

    It isn’t his strongest effort, it’s just a 6 song EP, but two songs really stand out, IMO. And there are some lyrical gems in some of the other tunes.

    Yeah, he’s an interesting guy, all right. I love his interviews because he’s so candid a lot of the times; I always learn something from the guy. Be it about the business, songwriting, or something else.

    Jeez—you definitely got a lot of topics on here that I like! It’ll take awhile to get thru some of them! Nice eclectic mix, I’m diggin’ it.

    • jmucci said,

      Hey, thanks for the info. I only heard about the last download-only collection he had (which I got)…but never heard about this one. The way he releases music is getting more & more bizarre…but ya gotta love him for it.
      Thanks for the compliment. I do try to put on anything that I find interesting, or that I think other people might find interesting. You might not like everything..but if you look hard enough…you’ll keep finding something of interest.

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