Paul Westerberg

Paul Westerberg

Suicaine Gratifaction


Westerberg — “The Artist Formerly Known as Vital” — opens his third solo outing (fourth, if you count the final Replacements record, All Shook Down ) with the line “I’m past my prime, or was it just a pose.” It’s reasonable to understand that Westerberg would tire of the Replacements monkey on his back. Everything he tries since then is compared to the ‘Mats’ canon of excellence, and like so many influential bands, the Replacements never did make much money. All of that said, if he can’t realize what that band meant to people, and how records like his latest lazy, tossed-off effort are an insult to the memory of a great, literally life-saving band, then he ought to shut the hell up and watch baseball on TV.

For all their drunken posturing, the Replacements were actually one of the more talented and intense bands America has ever spawned — listen to the classic bootleg The Shit Hits the Fans for a aural picture of four incredibly in-synch musicians, playing their hearts out. Even when the band began its decline on the last two records — Don’t Tell A Soul and the aforementioned All Shook Down , they still had a glorious, decaying beauty that no one will ever match. At their peak — the Twin/Tone recordings and Pleased to Meet Me and Tim , they are as good as rock and roll ever came close to getting. Passionate, stumbling guitars, aching vocals and a hell-bent whiskey bound attitude that tried (purposely never well-enough) to hide the disappointment that lurked beneath the happy clown facade, Westerberg and the Replacements delivered on the punk promise while at the same time maintaining a pop sense second to none.

Without the tension a band creates, four egos and ideas battling for space, Westerberg’s solo material has never been as satisfying as his earlier work, but it’s never been this bad. Why this record took so long to create and deliver is a mystery not answered in the grooves. This thing sounds like demos for songs yet to be finished — and considering that it was produced in part by Don Was and features backing hands like drumming legend Jim Keltner and keyboardist Benmont Tench, that’s a lot of talent to have lurking around while you attempt to write a song. This record might be Westerberg’s Basement Tapes , but unlike the spontaneous genius of Dylan and the Band, you get a boring, ambling mess that, except for the voice, sounds nothing like the man who gave us “Can’t Hardly Wait,” “Shiftless When Idle,” or “Bastards of the Young” — essential milestones of popular music. People who are satisfied by this record would also like James Ellroy writing a laundry list, or Picasso painting houses with a roller.

Punk rock’s central premise — the dissatisfaction with a culture grounded in boredom and banality, and the fervent desire to smash all that was false and dishonest — fueled bands like Hüsker Dü, the Ramones, Mission of Burma, and most artfully and gloriously, the Replacements. It’s a truly sad day when records like this are all that we are left.

Capitol Records, 1750 N. Vine Street, Hollywood, CA 90028-5274

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Recently on Ink 19...

  • The Reading Room
    The Reading Room

    Today’s episode features author Anna-Marie O’Brien talking about her book Adventures of a Metalhead Librarian: A Rock N’ Roll Memoir with Ink 19’s Rose Petralia.

  • Bush Tetras
    Bush Tetras

    Rhythm and Paranoia (Wharf Cat). Review by Scott Adams.

  • Tom Tom Club
    Tom Tom Club

    The Good The Bad and the Funky (Nacional). Review by Julius C. Lacking.

  • Barnes & Barnes
    Barnes & Barnes

    Pancake Dream (Demented Punk Records). Review by Carl F. Gauze.

  • Jeremiah Lockwood
    Jeremiah Lockwood

    A Great Miracle: Jeremiah Lockwood’s Guitar Soli Chanukah Album (Reboot). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • Metallica: The $24.95 Book
    Metallica: The $24.95 Book

    From an underground band that pioneered the thrash metal sound, to arguably the biggest rock act in the new millennium, Metallica has had a long and tumultuous history. Ben Apatoff scours a myriad of sources to catalog this history in his new book.

  • Araceli Lemos
    Araceli Lemos

    Shortly after AFI Fest 2021 wrapped, Generoso spoke at length with director, Araceli Lemos about her award-winning and potent feature debut, Holy Emy. Lemos’s film uses elements of body horror in her story about the exoticization of two Filipina sisters living in Greece and how that exploitation creates a distance between them.

  • Southern Accents 55
    Southern Accents 55

    A woofin’ good time with cuts from Hank Williams, Muddy Waters, Delta Moon and more from KMRD 96.9, Madrid, New Mexico!

  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
    Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

    Absurdism with a healthy dose of air conditioning.

  • Mixtape 172 :: My Old Bassist
    Mixtape 172 :: My Old Bassist

    Like pre-teens throwing every liquid into the kitchen blender and daring each other to drink the results, Woody and Jeremy fuse all manner of sounds legitimate and profane into some murky concoction that tastes surprisingly good.

From the Archives