Former Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg is the latest music iconoclast to tinker with some creative (and cheap) digital distribution. His latest album — his first in four years — is a 44-minute Amazon download listed as a .49-cent track called “49:00”. All recorded at his home, with Westerberg presumably playing all the instruments, “49:00” is a delightful experiment that’ll have fans yearning for the singer’s next studio project.
There are no real track dividers and no song titles, just an album’s worth of song fragments and some complete songs smooshed into a roughly mixed, chaotic sounding whole. The sound is raw, but easily better than that found on the rough recordings released under his GrandpaBoy alias. Nothing here is new musically speaking, but Westerberg’s lyrics about lovable losers and dreaming drunkards are as astute as ever. As can be expected, the songs move from warped country to garagey beatdowns to charmingly fuzzy indie rock.
Songs are sometimes invaded midstream by other melodies and riffs, making for a tough, but interesting, listen. A highlight arrives a 14:15 — a particularly sloppy, and very fast, fade from a countrified rocker to a quick montage of song snippets (sort of like flipping through the stations) before finally segueing into a more cohesive hard rock tune about the devil.
The album’s last few breaths include blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em snippets from sloppy, Replacements-style covers such as “Hello Goodbye,” “I am a Rock,” “Rocket Man,” and “Born to Be Wild”. However, an earnest take on the Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You” sticks around for a few blissful minutes.