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Paul Westerberg

PW & The Ghost Gloves Cat Wing Joy Boys EP

[Dry Wood; 2009]

By ; September 30, 2009 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

In 1997, between labels and growing increasingly frustrated with recording as a major label solo recording artist, Paul Westerberg took a sharp detour and released a five-song EP under the pseudonym GrandpaBoy. The songs were uncharacteristically direct, avoiding many of pitfalls of his previous recordings. The EP signaled a new direction for Westerberg, that he hadn’t forgotten that music could be fun and that sometimes a song gained power through a stripped down arrangement. But fans would have to wait until 2002’s Stereo/Mono double whammy of home recordings to see the potential truly blossom. It was on that release that a line in the sand was drawn, and with rare exception, Westerberg would release albums his way– home recorded, and in recent years, without the help of a label or a presence in CD racks.

PW & The Ghost Gloves Cat Wing Joy Boys continues in the vein of his MP3-only records, but doesn’t reach the highs of the song collage that launched those releases, last year’s 49. Paul seems to sense that’s he’s in a rut. “Finally found a pair of cowboy boots that fit/now I hang around and stare at the shine I spit.” He’s looking to someone for inspiration in “Gimme Little Joy” and threatens to blow the roof off the place if he finds it.

There’s an argument to be made that the first take is often the best, but too often the songs sound like they were being written as they were recorded. “Dangerous Boys” sounds the most inspired and rehearsed. It could easily fit on some of his more produced albums, and it’s hard not to imagine this being played live on some future tour. “Drop Them Gloves,” the most rocking song on the EP, would also sound great live, probably far better than the version featured here. Often he’s trying to re-create the sound of a band hammering it out in the basement, and sometimes it works to great effect, but on a song like this it becomes apparent that most bands are, well, bands.

When Westerberg gets melancholy the one-man band is less of an issue. “Love On The Wing,” with its plaintive piano introduction sounds like an outtake from 1999’s Suicaine Gratifaction. “Ghost On The Canvas” features acoustic guitars and pseudo-religious themes. “We dream in color/others they color their dreams.” It’s an intriguing song, certainly better than “Good As The Cat,” but maybe the feeling that he’s not being treated as well as the family feline is what drives him to the basement in the first place. And with this EP, warts and all, we are lucky for that.

It’s important to point out that this is a record. For the first time since 2004 you can purchase an honest to goodness CD of new non-soundtrack Paul Westerberg music. And it’s hard not to look at this as a sign of things to come. Its independent release on Westerberg’s Dry Wood label could easily be a test for something more substantial. Maybe he’ll find a sympathetic producer and take the lessons of the basement recordings and apply them to something better crafted and professional sounding. Or maybe not. Either way it’s nice to get a unexpected dose of rock and roll like this. A little grit in the Pro Tools.


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