The Walking Rock Alphabet: F
Today’s choice was a no-brainer, although a visit from my nephew almost made my walk not happen. Luckily, my son was home and they were off in video game land, giving me the hour I needed to head out on this PERFECT fall day.
My album of the day is by far the longest of this little project, but it just had to be chosen, and given the weather conditions I had no worries I’d make my longest venture to date. The recording in question? Folker, Paul Westerberg’s 2004 masterpiece.
A masterpiece? Yes. Sure, it’s no Let It Be, Tim, or Pleased to Meet Me, Westerberg’s legendary Replacements albums. As far as his solo career, however, Folker tops the list, and was not only my favorite album of 2004 but my choice of Album of the Decade!
It’s certainly not for everybody, particularly since it is one of Paul’s home recordings where he plays every instrument (including somewhat annoying plodding drums). Among the Westerberg faithful, Mono’s garage band sound quite often gets the nod, while that album’s folk-ish companion, Stereo, contains many of his best solo songs.
It’s Folker for me, though, primarily because of the album’s full sound. While many of his one-man band albums sound like first-take demos, Folker is almost lush. Or as lush as a person can get fiddling around in his basement. Ignore the drums. They are shit, and I’m sure Paul would admit to such. His guitar playing is top-notch, and the layered mix of electric and acoustics are on a par with anything he could have recorded in a “real” studio.
None of that would matter if the songs were garbage, and anybody reading this would know my answer to that. With the exception of a throwaway opener (“Jingle”), and a mid-album lull (“$100 Groom” and “23 Years Ago”), these are all top-notch tracks. In fact, I’ll take the six-song stretch run after “23 Years Ago” up against even the best Replacements half-album. The melodies are strong, the wordplay is typical top-notch Westerberg, and the album flows from power pop (“As Far As I Know”) to folk-rock (“What About Mine”, “How Can You Like Him?”) to Faces-ish raunch and roll (“Folk Star”).
Speaking of Westerberg, yesterday Rolling Stone released their full interview with him regarding that upcoming reunion EP with Tommy Stinson, and I’m starting to believe he’s ready to crawl out of his suburban Minneapolis home (I hope, at least). You should all head over there and read it, as it’s full of some great self-deprecating lines about himself, Slim, Tommy, and “the R word”. He even has a tongue-in-cheek response to Color Me Obsessed:
“I recognized most of the people, and some of them I thought, How dare you, you shameful so and so? Why don't you get a life? I was embarrassed by it more than anything, I guess. Wouldn't you be, if a movie described every little intricate thing about your life? That thing, the R band, the 'Mats, they don't even really belong to us anymore.”
Great stuff, and I’ll be posting more on the EP to benefit Slim as further news comes out.