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Come Feel Me Tremble

As erstwhile leader of Minneapolis' Replacements, a key American band in the 1980s evolution from punk to indie rock, Paul Westerburg is assured a place on most-influential-musicians lists. His solo career hasn't panned out as hoped, however, with pleasant but unsurprising discs followed only by diehard fans.

As erstwhile leader of Minneapolis’ Replacements, a key American band in the 1980s evolution from punk to indie rock, Paul Westerburg is assured a place on most-influential-musicians lists. His solo career hasn’t panned out as hoped, however, with pleasant but unsurprising discs followed only by diehard fans. An opportunity is thus lost with “Come Feel Me Tremble,” which not only offers scant insight on the Replacements era but also fails to draw out the evasive singer-songwriter, or affirm his significance as an artist. Instead, rough-hewn docu is basically a tour-diary-cum-concert pic, best suited for purchase by loyalists on DVD.

Westerburg no longer travels with a band, and confesses that “severe ADD” — or is it massive brain-cell loss incurred during the Replacements’ famously drunken history? — means he often can’t remember his own songs. Still, solo perfs here of such favorites as “High Time,” “Let the Bad Times Roll” and “Satisfied” at club or in-store appearances retain his signature mix of loping guitar, endearingly unpolished vocals, and an emotionally direct mix of the wistful, boisterous and fatalistic.

His willfully mismatched clothes are often held together with electric tape, eyes perennially masked by dark sunglasses, hair looking electroshocked; Westerburg prefers to stay hidden (outside his songs) behind a dazed, amused aging-slacker veneer.

But the pic lacks outside commentary to provide context.

Westerburg notes it was the Replacements’ “job to fail on as big a scale as possible.” Asked to comment on each of that band’s now-classic discs, he tosses off a series of brutal, terse judgments. But that’s all the reflection the pic manages, and even these nuggets will mean nothing to those not already well acquainted with subject’s career. (Even the credited co-director “Otto Zithromax” is a Westerburg pseudonym.)

Feature is assembled in large part from amateur footage shot and freely contributed by fans. Not surprisingly, visual quality is highly variable, though audio for the most part is pretty good. Concert segs are more professionally handled, with many songs heard at full length. Editing tries to keep things lively with various gambits, but too often indifferent footage seems to be simply killing screentime to accommodate another tune on the soundtrack.

Come Feel Me Tremble

  • Production: A Ten Pin Management and Jagged Eye production. Produced, directed by Otto Zithromax, Rick Fuller.
  • Crew: Camera (color, Beta SP), Pete Cardosa, Zithromax; editor, Joe Martin; music, Paul Westerburg; sound, Tom Herbers; additional camera, Steven A. Dumain, Jack Turner, David Barton, Anne Marie Hess, Benjamin Robins, Jack Turner; additional editing, Mike Newell, Michael Lindquist. Reviewed at Bay Area Video Coalition, San Francisco, July 30, 2003. (In Noise Pop Festival, San Francisco.) Running time: 88 MIN.
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