Paul Westerberg | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Paul Westerberg

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"You want it that bad / [To] be a world class fad / You better leave a trail of crumbs / . . . Remember where you started from." These words, chorus to the centerpiece of Paul Westerberg's first solo album, 14 Songs, are merely the former Replacement's latest essay on the perils of stardom, real or potential. Westerberg is now plainly the most self-conscious major artist in rock history; for ten years he's been filling his albums with, on the one hand, rueful tales of selling out and, on the other, bruising attacks against the holier-than-thous who might call him on it. The process of emerging from a rock underground whose quest for artistic purity sometimes spills over into self-righteousness has probably scarred him for life. Nevertheless it's time for this quondam punk genius to grow up and out, a process he has begun on 14 Songs. It's a hard album to like: far too much of it consists of rather one-dimensional, overly riffy workouts ("Down Love," "Silver Naked Ladies") and songs that, to use his own words agin him, "wax poetic about things pathetic"--most notably "Even Here We Are" and "Runaway Wind." Which leaves us with that self-consciousness: "World Class Fad" rocks out, and "Dice Behind the Shades" joins "Color Me Impressed" and "When It Began" as one of his better eviscerations of trendies. Now this fixation is fine by me; it provides context for his career and, hey, to a critic, subtext is catnip. But no one's cried sellout to Westerberg for years; all anyone's doing, really, is waiting for him to put out a great rock album. At this point he's running out of reasons not to do it. Thursday, 7:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Frank Ockenfels.

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