Dead Man Shake
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Of all the white boy rockers to reach back to the blues in mid-life crisis, none in recent memory succeed as well as Paul Westerberg, a.k.a. Grandpaboy. Dead Man Shake is a ragged, loud, shuffling garage-blues record that reeks of stumbling good times, and the kind of stuff you do and say when you think no one's looking at you, or you're too far gone to care. Westerberg's not making sensitive statements or trying to write a pop song as good as "Alex Chilton" here. As such, it's the best music he's made in years. The originals are bluesy slop worthy of Fat Possum's trademark of quality, while the covers are wild and strange, from a drunken karaoke "What Kind of Fool Am I" to a riotous, slide guitar-fueled "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." Like the 'Mats themselves in concert, even the bad songs on here are good. "No Matter What They Say" has the line "I went to Madison Square Garden / And I had a terrible time," delivered so Basement Tapes-blankly it redeems the whole song, which you'd swear the band played while passed out. This record teems with one-liners ("I'm just a honky in the parking lot," "Get A Move On") and, against all odds, it just might be one of the year's best. --Mike McGonigal
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Now, left to his own devices and two indie labels - Fat Possum & Vaugrant - Paul seems to be making records by himself and in his basement, which leads to a homey sloppiness. I dont mind that. The looseness of the Replacements and of some of their contemporaries (Husker Du, Soul Asylum) and their influences (Faces, Stones, NY Dolls) was one of their strongest attributes.
There are some wonderful songs here - but the tone of Come Feel Me Tremble feels too similar to the Mono/Stereo albums to me. Dead Man Shake by Paul's Grandpaboy persona seems just different enough to make it a more interesting album. Perhaps having the framework of setting out to make a (kind of) blues album for a (kind of) blues record label gave him enough structure to make something a little more different than we would have otherwise. And being different, it's also more interesting. And much as I dig Paul's take on the Jackson Browne song "These Days" on CFMT, the covers here by Hank Williams and John Prine on Dead Man Shake are, again, better.
While the music industry just collpases in on itself, it's good to know that Paul Westerberg is oblivious to it all, just cranking out songs from somewhere in Minnesota, not giving a damn about fashion or what's cool or that downloads are killing the business. More power to him for it.