Despite the howling of the legions of fans still hanging on to their inebriated memories of the Replacements, ex-Mats leader Paul Westerberg hasn't made a good solo record since his debut, 14 Songs, way back in 1993. Content to play the recluse, Westerberg has quietly released a whole catalog of unadulterated shit, from the confessional piano dirges of Suicaine Gratifaction to his overhyped and under-rehearsed deluge of recent product such as Stereo, Come Feel Me Tremble and Folker. Passing off riffs as songs has sadly become the norm for a guy who was once (justifiably) considered one of the best songwriters of his generation.
All of which makes Westerberg's significant contributions to the soundtrack of the animated flick Open Season so surprisingly remarkable. Working outside of his house for the first time in ages, Westerberg utilizes a full band as well as a decent studio and regains a spark that's eluded him for more than a decade. Cuts such as "Right to Arm Bears" and "Love You in the Fall" not only serve the film's narrative, they succeed by employing the same artful twisting of a cliché that recalls classic material from the Replacements such as "Bastards of Young" and "Left of the Dial."
"I'm a knight in a shining armchair," sings Westerberg on "Any Better Than This," displaying the kind of keen self-depreciation that was once his stock-in-trade. Perhaps the relative anonymity of a kid's movie has allowed Westerberg to finally come to grips with his stumbling legacy. Judging by the mostly male, loser-infested juvenilia demonstrated by the Westerberg faithful, Paul has always done his best work for children.
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