Friday, August 29, 2008

Just Add Water: 49:00 of your Life

Paul Westerberg's newest release, 49:00, is a single (well, not quite) .mp3 file containing a dozen or so songs home-recorded and rough-mixed. (Westerberg plays all instruments: his young son adds vocals on the final track)He put it up on Amazon for sale for the price of either .49 or .99, depending on whether you added it to your shopping cart as a "song" or as an "album." Westerberg is reported to have said, "I figured about a penny a minute was what it's worth." One tends to agree with him. The initial .mp3 file was actually only 43:55 seconds long, and two weeks ago it abruptly disappeared from Amazon, and its place was a single .mp3 file of a song called, brilliantly, "5:05." (bringing the full release length up to 49:00: get it?) If it sounds like genius, or if it feels like rage, or it ends up being exhaustion, or laziness, or malice, you're probably having an accurate feeling. I started cutting up the original 49:00 .mp3 into songs but gave up after awhile: if Westerberg didn't care to, why should I? The first several songs are strongest: "Who Ya Gonna Marry," "To Be Risin'" and "Something in My Life is Missing," and the stand-alone "5:05" might be the best of all, but then it gets a little hairy (like most of Folker and Come On Feel Me Tremble, his most recent albums, which I didn't care for at all). With 49:00, all along the way, any time you start to get into a groove on something, it's liable to disappear into a hiss of overdubbed noise tracking or bleeds from other songs. That said, the production fits, and yet, and yet... almost everything about Westerberg's solo career continues to confound. As he himself once memorably sang, "Just add water - I'm disappointed."

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