Paul Westerberg – 14 Songs

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

Westerberg was doomed, I think (and as I suspect so many are), by his past with a beloved band. He was never going to be able to meet expectations. What’s particularly tragic for Westerberg is how unreasonable those expectations were. People loved the mythology of the Replacements – the idea that a drunk high school dropout could get it together just long enough to create a magical piece of music and then crawl back into the gutter – and equally loved celebrating and enabling the excesses and self-sabotage that framed that dynamic. But even if this was an accurate view of what Westerberg was in his 20s, there is no reason to have wished that on him for the remainder of his life.

What I Think of This Album

Is this a disappointing album? Yes, but that’s partly my fault for having certain expectations (hey, I’m not perfect). I think it’s best to accept Westerberg on his own terms and just let him do what he wants. Is it a bad album? No, not at all; in fact, it’s got some great songs, even if it doesn’t really come together as a whole.

There are a couple of unusual aspects to this release. First, Westerberg was the last of the Replacements to release a solo album (though he did contribute two excellent songs to the Singles soundtrack in the interim). Second, it’s on the quieter songs where he shines. “Runaway Wind” is lovely and gentle, with sympathetic lyrics and an appropriately measured vocal. “Even Here We Are” is mixed really low and is super short, but is well worth paying attention to; this is the most affecting song on the album. “Black Eyed Susan” is just Paul recorded in his kitchen – shades of “Within Your Reach” from way back in 1983 – and it is damn near perfect. “Things” is a sardonic but mature exploration of ambivalence and weakness (“You’ll be a song I sing / A thing I give away”). “Dice Behind Your Shades” adopts a comfortable, shambly groove; Laurie Lindeen of Zuzu’s Petals (and Westerberg’s spouse at the time) sings backup on this amiable, warm tune. “First Glimmer” is a sweet reminiscence, with wonderful lyrical details and a nice moment where Paul’s voice breaks.

“Down Love” is the best of the fast songs, with a punkish attitude and sound. “World Class Fad” is the next best rocker, but it still misses the mark; ostensibly directed at Kurt Cobain, there is little wit to the title and there is too much obvious effort in the lyrics, but the guitars sound pretty cool. “A Few Minutes of Silence” is a decent bit of power-pop (there’s some nice riffing going on, and a cool solo, and the drumming is funky) but it’s not memorable. “Knockin On Mine” has potential – the opening riff promises the moon, and the melody is more than adequate – but the lyrics are overcooked and Paul’s vocal performance (or really, the production choice) isn’t great. “Mannequin Shop” is misguided; “Silver Naked Ladies” is silly and annoying; and “Something Is Me” is lazy.

Guesting on this album were Joan Jett, Ian McLagan (Faces), Josh Freese, and Brian MacLeod (Wire Train); also, the Georgia Satellites’ bassist Rick Price played on one song.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Even Here We Are”

Release Date

June, 1993

The Cover Art

The album title being an homage to Salinger’s Nine Stories, the cover is a bit pretentious and on the nose.

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