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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Paul Westerberg
Folker
Vagrant Records

Rating: 7.5/10 ?


October 1, 2004
The swinging party ended a long time ago for Paul Westerberg. No longer the lovable lush with the lampshade on his head, Westerberg is a changed man whose wild years are well behind him. Now, he "...wants to breathe some new life", as he says in the appropriately titled "New Life", a song off his new solo album, Folker. He's got some family issues to work out first.

Without a doubt, Folker is the most personal record of Westerberg's storied career. Never before has he been so forthcoming about the details of his private life, especially his relationship with his father. On "My Dad", he describes a man of simple pleasures who "sits and stares all day/ at his flat-screen TV", the one he got from Paul at Christmas. The one he says Paul paid too much for. A devoted son, you can tell Paul secretly worships the old man. To anyone who asks his dad how he is doing, he flashes "...an emphysema grin" and says he's fine, even if back pain has him laid up. He's from the old school, the kind of guy who tells everyone he feels as healthy as a horse and wonders why everyone gets upset when he cancels his doctor's appointments without telling anyone. That's just dad. He's always been an obstinate pain in the ass. Where do you think his son gets it?

"My Dad" is as touching a song as Westerberg has ever written. A slow-burning fuse with a delicious, hooky drawl, it growls like a drunk awakened from a dead sleep the morning after tying one on. It's not a flattering portrait, but at the same time, he finds the good in the man that brought him into this world. Every night though he sits with a " bottle on the floor/ next to the baseball box score", he always looks fondly at his grandson's photograph. A walking contradiction, he's never seen Paul perform, but he gets a kick out of seeing "the family name" in the newspaper. And that's enough for Paul, who still says he'd "give him everything I owned" if he asked for it.

A lot of Replacements' fans feel the same way about Paul. If he needed a kidney, they'd be lining the street to donate theirs. That's devotion, and Paul puts their unconditional love to the test. He's sort of like a prodigal father figure who will just leave without saying goodbye and then show up one day on the stoop with arms full of presents, and an apology. Folker is his way of saying sorry... again.

And, I've got to admit, he got us some nice stuff while he was away. Folker plucks the best ideas from Mono/Stereo, the two-disc set that's widely considered Westerberg's comeback album, and offers gentle, fragile-hearted ballads and loud snorts of punk rock contempt. "Gun Shy" and the title track are the kind of spirited, shaggy-haired blasts of obnoxious honky-tonk punk that made The Replacements famous. In "$100 Groom", it sounds like Westerberg fell off the wagon and composed this shambling, bittersweet alt-country ode to eloping while sitting at a bar staring at a pyramid of empty shot glasses. Delivered in Westerberg's cigarette-stained croon, the song stumbles into a Vegas wedding chapel dressed in a disheveled tuxedo and wearing a shit-eating grin. You can't help but smile along with him as he takes his place beside the bride, barely able to stand, rifling through his pockets for the ring as she rolls her eyes. The song feels like an apology to his better half, like the kind you make in one of those 12-step programs to cleanse your soul.

The good, the bad and the ugly of Westerberg's solo work: it's all here. "Looking Up In Heaven" and "Any Way It's All Right" spin webs of lovely acoustic guitar strum and catch you blissfully unawares, reminding us that indeed, Paul "... will dare" to bare his soul, but not all the time. The faceless blues of "23 Years Ago" drags on interminably and should have been left on the cutting room floor. The same can be said for "New Life", with its off-key vocals, power-ballad guitar solo and floundering melody, and "How Can You Like Him" is aching to be miserable with an unforgivably mawkish chorus. But when Westerberg rebounds with the sparkling 60s-style pop diamonds "As Far As I Know" and "What About Mine", all is forgiven.

Come back again soon, Paul. We miss you when you're gone. And if your "...mind is closed for repairs" like the girl you sing about in the coming-of-age melodrama "What About Mine", we'll wait till everything is fixed. But Paul, don't forget to bring us more gifts like this one and if you dare, I will dare too.

Reviewed by Peter Lindblad
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he\'ll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.

See other reviews by Peter Lindblad

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