The new, unexpected album by Paul Westerberg, singing with Juliana Hatfield as the duo The I Don’t Cares. This review comes from Rolling Stone, Jan. 29, 2016 and written by Jonathan Bernstein…
Paul Westerberg, Juliana Hatfield team up for a debut packed with unexpected gems.
When Nineties alt-rocker Juliana Hatfield started working with Paul Westerberg last year, she soon realized that much of the Replacements singer’s greatest work remained unreleased. “She brought a lot of this to life that otherwise would have just sat down in the basement and sort of rotted,” the notoriously reclusive Westerberg has said.
Enter Wild Stab, Westerberg’s first proper record in a dozen years, and his inaugural collaboration with Hatfield. Recording as the I Don’t Cares, the duo assembled 16 ramshackle tracks: a mix of original material, never-before-heard gems from Westerberg’s basement archive, and re-recorded solo tunes from his back catalog.
Opening tunes “Back” and “Wear Me Out Loud” are old Replacements outtakes that gracefully channel the Minneapolis singer’s Don’t Tell a Soul-era pop craftsmanship. Elsewhere, the duo tackle gentle alt-country (“½ 2 P,” “Sorry for Tomorrow Night”), melodic power-pop (“Need the Guys,” “King of America”), and indignant, rockabilly-tinged punk (“Love Out Loud,” “Done Done Done”). Hatfield is front and center on several tunes, dueting with Westerberg on soft-spoken ballads (“Kissing Break,” “Just a Phase”) and taking the occasional lead. Most often, though, she sticks to the background, providing sweet harmony vocals and lead guitar throughout.
Wild Stab chugs along pleasantly enough until “Hands Together,” the 7-minute, album-closing showstopper that serves as a devastating sequel of sorts to 1985’s “Here Comes a Regular.” “Dreams I had before are now too bored to even show up,” Westerberg sings in his scraggly mumble, proving that he can still pull off weary resignation better than anyone.
I just found this brief, but moving article that Paul wrote about Alex Chilton’s untimely death. It comes from an op-ed piece in The New York Times, March 20th of this year…
How does one react to the death of one’s mentor? My mind instantly slammed down the inner trouble-door that guards against all thought, emotion, sadness. Survival mode. Rock guitar players are all dead men walking. It’s only a matter of time, I tell myself as I finger my calluses. Those who fail to click with the world and society at large find safe haven in music — to sing, write songs, create, perform. Each an active art in itself that offers no promise of success, let alone happiness. Read the rest of this entry »
In honor of Alex Chilton, who sadly passed away today at the age of 59…
“Children by the millions sing for Alex Chilton…”
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.
David Fricke’s review of The ‘Mats’ 1987 platter. This album still sounds as good as it did when it first came out. This review is from the July 2, 1987 issue of Rolling Stone…
When God was giving out self-confidence, where the hell was Paul Westerberg? Out buying beer? For someone so blessed with songwriting ability, the singer-guitarist seems unduly consumed with doubt about his own worth and that of the Replacements, his merry band of Minneapolis rock & roll idiot savants. “One more chance to get it all wrong … one more chance to get it half-right,” he bawled desperately in the semiautobiographical blitzkrieg “We’re Comin’ Out,” on the group’s 1984 album Let It Be.
The equally raucous “I Don’t Know,” on Pleased to Meet Me, the Replacements’ fifth full-length platter, is Westerberg’s latest ode to his own uncertainty. “One foot in the door/The other foot in the gutter,” he sings in his trademark rasp against the crude Stonesy gallop of drummer Chris Mars and bassist Tommy Stinson. While Mars and Stinson whine, “I don’t know,” like a stoned Greek chorus over the baritone sax of guest Steve Douglas, Westerberg details the tragicomic hopelessness of his dilemma and that of his vagabond band (“Our lawyer’s on the phone…. What did we do now?”). Too talented to play the fool, disgusted with showbiz protocol, he dreads the very success his undeniable gifts can bring. “The sweet smell that they adore/Well, I think I’d rather smother,” Westerberg snarls defiantly in the chorus. But near the end, when he asks, “Whatcha gonna do with your life?” a barely audible voice replies, with dreary resignation, “Nothin’.”
Pleased to Meet Me, like nearly everything in Westerberg’s oeuvre, is about not fitting in, about square pegs surrounded by nothing but round holes. What distinguishes Westerberg from the misfits populating his songs is his uncanny ability to speak for the tongue-tied, articulating their aspirations and insecurities with intuitive sensitivity, boozy whimsy and straight street talk – leavened with a little poetic license. As a lyricist, he is fond of the hilariously surreal (in “Can’t Hardly Wait,” he sings, “Jesus rides beside me/He never buys any smokes”), and he has a knack for dramatically potent non sequiturs (in “Shooting Dirty Pool,” he delivers the acidic put-down “You’re the coolest guy I ever have smelled”). As a melodist, he revels in a kind of perverted pop classicism, hanging his spiritual tensions and mischievous lyrics on offbeat hooks and change-up choruses like some grungy offspring of Randy Newman and Elton John; meanwhile, the band’s guitar-drums gunfire threatens to turn your brain to tapioca.
The result is an album alive with the crackle of conflicting emotions and kamikaze rock & roll fire. Nowhere on Pleased to Meet Me is that tortured vibrancy more evident than in “The Ledge,” a powerful study of teen suicide set to an urgent beat and death-knell guitar arpeggios. Westerberg makes no excuses here, no accusations. Instead, there is a haunting clarity in the face of eternal darkness, sympathy not just for the poor devil on the ledge but also for the people down below, whose help comes too late: “I’m the boy they can’t ignore/For the first time in my life I’m sure/All the love sent up high to pledge/Won’t reach the ledge.” There is no loss of life in the next song, “Never Mind,” but when Westerberg sings, “All over but the shouting,” in that hoarse bark of his, you can hear that same need to be understood, even as he walks away from an irreparably damaged relationship.
Life is not always a bed of nails in Replacementsville. “Red Red Wine” is a simple ode to the pleasures of the grape, a delightful rouser in the Mohawk party spirit of the band’s thrash classics Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash (1981) and Stink (1982). “Skyway” and “Can’t Hardly Wait” are both songs of gentle longing, the former inspired by the elevated walkways in downtown Minneapolis (“Oh, then one day/I saw you walkin’ down that little one-way/Where the place I catch my ride most every day/There wasn’t a damn thing I could do or say”) and played on acoustic guitars, which lend a heavenly grace. “Can’t Hardly Wait” is a touching snapshot of road weariness in which Westerberg falls into dreams of love and hearth on a sweet pillow of strings and soulful brass (“I’ll be home when I’m sleeping/I can’t hardly wait”).
But what fuels Pleased to Meet Me is the combination of Westerberg’s instinctive grasp of adolescent trauma and the band’s basement-rock fury, brilliantly produced by Memphis studio legend Jim Dickinson, who gets it warts and all, like the loud amplifier buzz that opens “Red Red Wine.” Indeed, the jewel in this collection of wonderfully rough diamonds is “Alex Chilton,” a frenzied celebration of the precocious frontman of the Box Tops and Big Star, who skidded into artistic paralysis in the late Seventies before hitting the comeback trail three years ago. (Chilton produced demos for the last Replacements LP, Tim, and plays guitar on “Can’t Hardly Wait.”) With Mars’s snare drum echoing like a rifle shot and his own guitar balled up into a clenched fist of distortion, Westerberg salutes Chilton’s genius with a knockout melody the equal of anything in the Big Star catalog while examining the insane pressure of living up to one’s own myth – “Children by the millions sing, ‘Will Alex Chilton come around?'”
Will children by the millions sing the same thing about Paul Westerberg in a few years’ time? Not likely. In the Replacements (now back to quartet strength with new guitarist Slim Dunlap replacing Tommy Stinson’s older brother, Bob, who left after Tim), Westerberg is blessed with a band of renegade realists, sometimes pickled out of their heads in concert but tough as nails in the clinch, anchoring Westerberg’s meditations in bar-band bedrock. Tracks like “I.O.U.” and “Shooting Dirty Pool” practically sound like Exile on Main Street at 78 rpm. It is ironic that Westerberg and the Replacements can make such a joyful noise out of so much anguish and insecurity. But on Pleased to Meet Me, the pleasure is all yours.
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
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 Read the rest of this entry »
Paul performing Neil Diamond’s classic song (made famous by The Monkees). This appears to be an amateur video, taken from Aug. 20, 1993 at First Avenue Club in Minneapolis (where the live performances from Purple Rain were filmed). This is not long after The Replacements broke up.
An interesting news report about the possibility of the ‘Mats soon breaking up. They did in fact break up after this final tour. I saw them during this time opening up for Elvis Costello.