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Paul Westerberg / Grandpa Boy 

Stereo (Vagrant) / Mono (Vagrant)

Where have you been, Paul Westerberg? An indie nation turned its lonely eyes to you, and you were off whoring your talents with Don Was. That's not the way poets of punk disaffection should grow old. Sure, it's hard following up a catalog that moved pock-faced, nothing-to-Dü teens to give a shit and not give a shit with equal abandon, balancing wisdom and self-destruction, making you a legend to a few. But them's the cards you've been dealt, and the hands you've looked at since the demise of the Replacements have included more lonely pairs than full houses.

Anyone who remembers Westerberg's heyday, however, will be happily surprised by the two-fer he's just picked from the deck. Stereo and alter-ego Grandpa Boy's Mono strap some semblance of cojones and sonic freedom to the wordplay that never left him.

Stereo's the considerably more mellow turn, a fork in the road taken toward adulthood. Mostly backbeat-free and basement acoustic in nature, it's a story lacking punch lines -- usually not a good thing in a Westerberg songbook. Luckily, Stereo's two exceptions -- a kids' song/John Updike tribute ("Mr. Rabbit") and an unlisted gem pulled off an '87 Flesh for Lulu album ("Postcards From Paradise") -- are reflective poses filled with hope, which may lead you to believe Paul will be all right.

Mono, on the other hand, is the step toward the cliff's edge that friends and family hoped you'd outgrow. Fuck 'em! "Let's Not Belong," "Knock It Right Out," and "Eyes Like Sparks" are one-shot wonders of the Sticky Fingers variety, songs that drink a beautiful raw potion to forget their despair. Just the kind of thing you were always good at!

More by Piotr Orlov

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