Paul Westerberg / Grandpa Boy Come Feel Me Tremble / Dead Man Shake

Paul Westerberg / Grandpa Boy Come Feel Me Tremble / Dead Man Shake
It took the creation of an alter-ego for Paul Westerberg to escape the major label ghetto he’d fallen into, and reconnect with the raw soul that made him a legend in the first place. That split personality resurrection happened brilliantly enough with last year’s Stereo/Mono, that Westerberg has tried it again, albeit with a twist. Whereas there wasn’t much of a stylistic difference between the previous two discs, Come Feel Me Tremble is his traditional ramshackle power pop, while Dead Man Shake indulges in some savage takes on classic blues and country themes. The immediate beauty of both is (again) the off-the-cuff production, powered by his beautifully sleazy Keith Richards-style guitar playing. In fact, Westerberg hasn’t sounded this at ease in years. Possibly for this reason, the songs on Tremble aren’t as instantly memorable as might be expected from someone who has expressed angst as well as any songwriter in the past 20 years. Still, it’s consistent from start to finish and there are plenty of gems: "Soldier of Misfortune” displays some trademark wit; "Crackle & Drag” is a bittersweet tale told from two different angles, and "Knockin’ Em Back” is a raucous ode to drinking from someone who apparently swore off the stuff years ago. Conversely, excessive drinking just seems inherent to the creation of Dead Man Shake. For anyone who wishes they could have seen the Replacements in their boozy heyday, this comes pretty close. Yet, overall Westerberg manages to convey the spirit of a rough-edged ’50s blues recording, even throwing in a few worthy original efforts among the covers. The slow shuffle of "No Matter What They Say” flows perfectly into Jimmy Reed’s "Take Out Some Insurance” just as later the Exile On Main Street-ish "Get A Move On” flows into John Prine’s "Souvenirs” and Hank’s "I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” Taken together, the albums aren’t as complete a picture as Stereo/Mono, but it’s all invigorating stuff, and evidence that Westerberg remains as relevant as he ever has. (Vagrant / Fat Possum)