Some people want to be like Mike. Others prefer to idolize Tom Cruise. I long to be the literary equivalent to Paul Westerberg — an artist with a dyslexic heart who can’t hardly wait to be anywhere, better than here. Someone who’s not content and loves taking risks with a creative mindset of “I have nothing to lose if let it ride on this line and sing it in my own style.”
I love the way that Westerberg has become an artist who doesn’t care about perfection but lives for the moment, the single take — with warts, mistakes and all. To Paul and to me, it’s not about flawlessness, it’s about the feeling and emotion you get while listening, reading or seeing the work of an artist. Just listen to his recent recordings on Vagrant — Stereo/Mono, Come Feel Me Tremble and Folker; they are sneak peaks into the voice of an artist who doesn’t believe in getting it right but in capturing the essence of creative spontaneity in the span of his ageless songs.
Westerberg has come along way from his days hanging with his gang of hooligans (a.k.a. The Replacements) who, one could argue were, the Brian Jonestown Massacre of the eighties with a little riotous Rolling Stones misbehavior thrown in for good measure. They were the band that was loved by critics, labels and fans alike but because of self-sabotaging on-stage debauchery. It kept them from becoming like R.E.M. and U2 the biggest and unforgettable band of the decade. Whenever I think of The Replacements the phrase that comes to mind is all that could have been.
My favorite tale from the ‘Mats era was the time they broke into their label to steal the masters to stop them from being released on CD. They wanted to throw the masters into the river hoping fellow Minneapolis musician Prince would see the tapes and rescue them from being destroyed. That’s why I love these guys, even though their romanticized craziness kept them from crossing over into the mainstream.
But Los ‘Mats did make a mark, because of Westerberg’s songs. They were and still are one of the most influential bands that came from the eighties. Listen to their records Tim, Let it Be or Pleased to Meet Me and you will hear the unbridled enthusiasm of four men — drummer Chris Mars, bassist Tommy Stinson, his brother guitarist Bob Stinson and of course Paul Westerberg on guitar and vocals — who could light the spark with riffs that would rock the house and bring it down with ballads that drip a tear inside yr favorite alcoholic beverage. The ‘Mats as a band were the epitome of the lover and the fighter in the movies. They were the band you loved to hate. The ones who always let you down but you always came back with lyrics like “Meet me any place or anywhere at any time now I don’t care/Meet me tonight/If you will dare, I will dare.”
So after signing to Warner Bros., who tried to gloss up the Mats sound with Don’t Tell a Soul, even with a modest MTV hit, “I’ll be you,” the band disintegrated and eventually disbanded before their last record All Shook Down was released. Westerberg wanted to release Down as a solo album but the label refused. After a half-hearted tour Westerberg finally left the band to start the solo career which he began on the ‘Mats last album.
Besterberg finds Rhino releasing the best of Paul’s solo output since 1992. Starting with my favorite song from the soundtrack to Singles, “Dyslexic Heart” and through “What a day (for a night)” from Come Feel Me Tremble. I call this collection The Splendid Rescue. Twenty songs saved from commercial obscurity and the record buying public’s overall ignorance to the genius of one of our generation’s underrated singer/songwriters.
It’s actually pretty simple folks: just buy this CD press play and for those of you unfamiliar with The ‘Mats and/or Westerberg you will hear it from the first chords of “Knocking on Mine.” You will discover why Paul Westerberg is the first things Keith Richards listens to when he’s recording with Stones in the studio. Then skip to the stinging beauty of “It’s a Wonderful Lie,” Westerberg stripped just with his aching voice and simple yet memorable lines like “The truth is overrated…I suppose.” Even when he sings Lennon’s “Nowhere Man” you can feel the misunderstood outcast that Westerberg’s voice perfectly relates to in this soon to be acoustic classic.
For die hard fans there are a few previously unreleased cuts from the Eventually sessions, like an alternative mix of “Once Around the Weekend,” the Dylan-esque “All That I Had” and the killer “C’mon, C’mon, C’mon.”
In 1991, Spin Magazine wrote that Paul Westerberg had “The Soul of Rock & Roll.” Almost fifteen years later you can hear why when you pick up your copy of Besterberg. All you have to do is throw on the CD and listen to the sounds of a man all but ignored who will continue to rock from his basement-like gutter while serenading to the stars. What are you waiting for? Let the bad times roll—believe me; you’ll thank me for it.
The Replacements – All For Nothing
Buffalo Tom – Asides from Buffalo Tom
Bob Mould – Poison Years