Fingerprints Music

Artist: Paul Westerberg
Format: CD
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Any old Replacement fans who bemoaned—short-sightedly, by the way—thegradual slickening of frontman Paul Westerberg's craft during his solocareer will find plenty to cheer on Stereo/Mono. After his polished1999 effort Suicaine Gratification was greeted with a resounding commercialsnore, Westerberg abandoned the major label world and, seemingly, its conventionsfor making music. This two-CD set is actually two separate albums—Stereois a collection of downcast pieces recorded by Westerberg alone in his homestudio while Mono is a full-band work by Westerberg's latest outfit, Grandpaboy.The common ingredient, of course, is Westerberg himself, uniting both sets ofsongs with his nasally sandpapery voice, caustic wit, catchy choruses and enduringaffection for big, full-bodied guitar chords.

Both discs are unrepentantly roughshod, but it's Stereo that hasthe more offhanded, sketchbook quality; some songs cut off abruptly, as if thetape unexpectedly ran out, while on one track, "We May Be the Ones,"we hear Westerberg's three-year-old son rush into the room and start talkingwhile dad's still recording. There are some exceptionally good songs here,though, including the gently disarming love song "Only Lie Worth Telling"to the even more unnerving "No Place for You," in which Westerberg,over a biting electric guitar, caustically notes that "No day is safe fromthoughts of you leaving." And several of the Stereo songs—"Mr.Rabbit," "Let the Bad Times Roll," "Call That Gone?"—boastraw, full-band arrangements that segue nicely into Mono's equallyspare and airy arrangements. On that disc one hears a bit of the old ‘Matsspirit surface on "Let's Not Belong," "Silent Film Star"and "Footsteps," but early ‘70s vintage Rolling Stones are justas much of a touchstone on chugging tracks such as "Knock It Right Out,""Kickin' the Stall" and "Between Love & Like."It's not always smooth, but Stereo/Mono is endlessly fascinating,an intimate encounter with a man who's still one of American rock'sbest songwriters.
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