"Suicaine Gratifaction" by Paul Westerberg (1999)
If I were recommending this album merely for myself it would get 11 stars. Paul's not exactly a household name, he came close as the recklessly brilliant muse of The Replacements--Minneapolis' second most famous export. Though critically acclaimed and often mentioned in the same breath as R.E.M. as being among the most influential bands of the post-punk era, the Replacements never attained all that much mainstream success and disbanded during the recording of 1990's All Shook Down. With the demise of The Replacements--an always unpredictable but potent force in music was left in the able hands of their leader Paul Westerberg.
His first solo album, 14 Songs, will very likely be regarded highly among the best of the 90's. In general his solo efforts have displayed a kinder gentler Paul--a side we always knew he possessed since previous gems such as "Here Comes A Regular" and "Sadly Beautiful." But the mischievous bravado typified by "Waitress in the Sky" (his scathing assault on the pretentiousness of flight attendants, sanitation engineers et. al) will be missed by die hard Replacement fans. Personally I prefer the mellower Paul, he writes wonderfully touching slow songs, and his genius for the tough-yet-tender turn of phrase is what I love the most about him. He has the rare gift of romaticising the existence of aging down-and-outters without indulging in so much as a syllable of sentimentality. Yet either through a melody or a clever aside manages to bring at least a glimmer of hope and nobility to these characters. That's what Suicaine Gratifaction is all about.
Paul is a lot like the Steve Earle of alternative music--respected by critics, fellow songwriters and musicians but largely overlooked by most everyone else. So if you're like me and you consider Paul to be among the most important songwriters of the past 15 years by all means go get the new one. It's better than Eventually, his '96 release, and it's certainly a helluva lot better than no Paul at all.
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