Just in case anyone was wondering, this should cast aside all doubts about just whom the best and most personal songwriter is in the world today.
Pleased to Meet Me is the third Replacements record in a row to feature Paul Westerberg's triple-threat songwriting. If he doesn't get you with a great melody ("Alex Chilton," "Can't Hardly Wait," and "Skyway" have been running through my head since day one), then his band will you over like a truck.
Try the (emphasis on) power (but still) pop of "Valentine" or the sheer locomotive energy of "The Ledge," where the whole band follows Paul over the precipice, kicking and screaming as they plunge.
It's the first time I've ever heard them totally mesh together as a band, a la Hüsker Dü or The Clash, my two reference points for them in terms of songwriting ability. But there is a key difference: The Clash's songs were overly concerned with the outside world, while Hüskertoons are more personal, yet still concerned with the outside world.
Paul Westerberg, more than any rock songwriter since Pete Townshend, writes "I" songs, the most vulnerable and hardest type of all. That, plus his attention to telling details, is what makes him such a fantastic songwriter. Things like "When you wish upon a star/and it turns into a plane" (from "Valentine") pop up constantly. And in "I Don't Know," he defines his stance -- "One foot in the door/the other one in the gutter" -- as the eternal pessimist who is paradoxically cocky at the same time.
This tension has been threatening to pull his songs apart at the seam ever since he asked a girl "How smart are you/How dumb am I?" then asked her to "Meet me anyplace or anywhere or anytime" on Let It Be's "I Will Dare."
The sound that producer Jim Dickinson got for this album has been compared to the Rolling Stones' classic Exile on Main Street because of the horns, strings and organ that augment (but never soften) the 'mats basic sound, and because of the muddiness of the overall proceedings.
And that's a good reference point, because with Westerberg's raspy emoting up top and the rhythm team of Chris Mars and Tommy (Tommieeeee!) Stinson underneat, at the very least, The Replacements would be just another fine Stonesish rock and roll band. But with Westerberg's songwriting spurring them, The Replacements are turning out to be one of the best and most important groups the '80's have to offer.
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This document HTMLized 14 August 2001
I was listening to that dog -- retreat from the sun