Paul Westerberg – “49:00” (2008)

February 9, 2009 at 8:46 am (Paul Westerberg, Reviews & Articles)

Braden Towne’s amusing review of Paul’s ramshackle, homemade internet-only release of last year. Taken from Crawdaddy!, Aug. 6, 2008… 


Of all the various ways I could have experienced Paul Westerberg’s new album for the first time, headphones plugged into a PC didn’t even make the list. I stopped around #112: Hearing 49:00 muffled through my neighbor’s wall while trying to extract a rusty fish-hook from my finger. That would have been an experience. That would have been memorable. But for me, as I suspect it was for many others, the first time came pumped directly into my cochleae from the same box to which I am tethered day-in, day-out.

It should be pointed out to those that have been on holiday in Antarctica that the method of my initial exposure was not chosen by me; rather, it was chosen by Paul Westerberg. In an effort to side-step the usual label fiasco that surrounds all new releases, Westerberg has casually made 49:00 available exclusively by download. If it were anyone other than the guy that wrote “Sixteen Blue” and “Bastards of Young,” personally, I wouldn’t have bothered. But the thing that allows Westerberg a pass is the music, and once again Minnesota’s finest has delivered.

As we’ve come to expect, 49:00 is packed full of sweet hooks and thoughtfully simple lyricism shoved uncomfortably up against raunchy instrumental performances and haphazard arrangements. This is rock ‘n’ roll’s DNA, and Paul’s got a license to clone. Each song shuffles in the door just as the last is jumping out the window; a couple even get caught hiding under the bed while one or two others sneak up behind you before running back home to their master tapes. 

Yes, Westerberg took full advantage of the fact that no one was looking when he made this record. It’s easily his most diverse album in years, offering something for fans of every stage of his career, and offering all of it to all of them. The download comes with no separation between tracks so you’ll have to listen to the whole thing to figure out what’s what, a task made more challenging by the fact that some songs play during other songs (yes, it’s exactly how it sounds). There is, of course, the ambling country crooning and Stonesy middle-aged swagger that has marked his more recent output, but 49:00 also showcases the snotty punk edge of Westerberg that never really went away, but certainly sounds a lot more Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash than 14 Songs here. This begins around the 14:30 mark with a song most likely called “Devil Raised a Good Boy” (I don’t think there’s even an official track list), and carries on a little later with what is probably “Everyone’s Stupid.” Even included is a Westerberg’s-former-band-style mélange of cover songs around 40 minutes in, culminating with “I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family. If that’s not punk, I don’t know what is, and neither do you.

For sure, I would have rather heard this album for the first time playing on a transistor radio while I fixed a flat on Route 20 in Iowa (#37) or on the jukebox of a bar at 3pm after I just got dumped (#1!!), but these days you gotta take what you can get, and we’re all lucky someone is still making rock ‘n’ roll records like this one. So my advice to you is to download this album, re-master it, press it to vinyl, then lose your virginity while listening to it. Damn it, it’s what the music deserves.

Braden Towne

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