One of the godfather’s of American alternative music, Paul Westerberg is one of those rock dogs who’s always out there, working on something. If you’re a fan, you can be sure you’ll have something new to listen to every few years. Even though his last release was in 2009, I assume that only makes the next one eve more imminent. For all his solo work and side projects, I only ever really think about him in relation to his original band, The Replacements. And while I have a handful of individual tracks I really love, I’ve never bothered to give them the real attention I know they deserve, So here we go, The Replacements, Pleased to Meet Me.
Opening with what would normally be a clichéd blues riff, The Replacements give it a real energy with I.O.U. But there’s weirdness on this album too, like the bizarrely saxophone fuelled Don’t Know.
Taking on almost all of the guitar duties, as well as his usual jobs of vocals and writing pretty much every note, Paul Westerberg makes his guitar just as prominent and personal as his voice and lyrics on every track. Which is impressive, given that in any other band, the rasp in Westerberg’s voice and the raw energy that comes with it would be the standout.
Pleased to Meet Me also shows Westerberg wasn’t content to cruise along on that gravelly energy. Nightclub Jitters is a weird jazz experimentation, with its sparse emptiness making sure he has nowhere to hide his vocals. Immediately after, we get The Ledge, a guitar rock, power pop toe tapper, complete with noodling solo.
Never Mind and Valentine combine the melodious sugar of The Ledge, while embracing the rough edges of earlier tracks like Alex Chilton. These loosely connected songs only make it even more a of a shift when Pleased to Meet Me launches into Shooting Dirty Pool, a dirty blues grime fest of George Thorogood proportions.
But they save the biggest whiplash inducing mood change for late, with penultimate track Skyway, a finger plucked ditty of sweetness and light. Before closing things out with the downright happy and optimistic Can’t Hardly Wait, an unapologetically upbeat moment after an album of hard edges and shoulder chippery.
At the heart of The Replacements is Westerberg’s ability to hide perfect pop hooks and pristine song writing underneath a little grime, and disguise them as rough, messy rock. Pleased to Meet Me is a great example of how these things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.