Viral Paul Westerberg: His music is contagious

Paul Westerberg
Photo courtesy of tenpinmgt.com
Paul Westerberg

There are lots of ways of looking at former Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg’s new album. You can think of it as a big file (79.2 MB) or as a long song (43 minutes and 55 seconds long) or as a great bargain (it’s 49 cents to download it) or as another mutation of viral marketing on the Internet. Or maybe just as a welcome end to a two-year hiatus from record-making for a Twin Cities icon.

However you choose to look at it, the first step in listening to it is downloading. The album, titled “49:00…of Your Life,” is available at Amazon.com.

Westerberg’s manager, Darren Hill, says, “Amazon was the only one that would allow us to sell it for 49 cents.”

(Readers: Have you listened to “49:00…of Your Life,” and if so, what do you think? Please comment.)

Adding it up
There are no song listings with the album, but as you listen, you’ll be able to pick out about 14 different songs. Sometimes songs overlap and sometimes the end of one crashes into the beginning of another and at other times there are snippets of sound that flicker in, out and back again forming what might be songs within songs.

The title refers to the length of the album, which has puzzled more than one person in the blogosphere. Hill’s explanation is simple, though: “I think if you listen to the songs that overlap, you’ll get 49 minutes out of it.”

Hill says Westerberg isn’t talking to the press about the project. Hill doesn’t seem to know much more than anyone else about the project that simply appeared unannounced Tuesday on a fan-run website and Westerberg’s own site.

Why charge 49 cents for a whole album? “I don’t know. Paul felt that was the appropriate price to charge for it,” Hill says. Any plans for a tour or performance in support of the new material? “No, no plans at the moment.” Any other projects in the pipeline? “We’re not sure yet.” How long did Westerberg work on “49”? “Not sure exactly.” Is there more material where this came from? “That’s right.”

And so on.

DIY
Billboard magazine reports that Westerberg plays all the instruments on the recording and that his preteen son, Johnny, apparently lends vocals to the final song, a mash-up of covers including Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild,” the Beatles’ “Hello, Goodbye,” Alice Cooper’s “Eighteen,” Elton John’s “Rocket Man” and the Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You.”

The crash of covers begins at about the 40-minute mark. At the other end of the recording, the album kicks off with a trio of ringing power pop songs that make it clear that Westerberg remains a force on rhythm guitar even after a serious 2006 injury to his fretting hand (he jammed it with a screwdriver while trying to remove candle wax).

Paulwesterberg.net has compiled its own “unofficial” track listings:

1. (Tell Me) Who You Gonna Marry? (3:57)
2. With or Without Her (3:01)
3. Something in My Life is Missing (3:42)
4. Mother’s Day (3:32)
5. As Yet to be Determined Noise (0:06)
6. Devil Raised a Good Boy (3:13)
7. You’re My Girl (0:24)
8. Everyone’s Stupid (2:37)
9. The one that says F— (0:09)
10. What Do You Want (0:20)
11. Now You Gone (0:44)
12. Goodnight Sweet Prince (3:54)
13. Guess I’ll Be Going Then (0:08)
14. Out of My System (3:22)
15. Be My Darling (3:44)
16. Money Goes Straight to Her Heart (0:12)
17. Hey, Hey (1:12)
18. Squeaky Obscene (1:11)
19. Six Seconds of Stuff (0:06)
20. It’ll Never Die (4:04)
21. Back To Saturn X Radio Report II (0:56)
22. I Think I Love you b/w Something I Can’t Discern (1:05)
23. Johnny Said So (2:09)

While the overlapping of songs and abrupt fading-in-and-out might be disconcerting for some, Hill says, “It’s a work of art that Paul created. So it’s intentional that it was put together like that.”

Hill told Billboard that the recording was finished on Monday of last week, sent to him on Tuesday, and was released on the websites just a few days later.

“It’s just wonderful that you can actually do this. The freedom an artist can enjoy these days is fantastic. Can you imagine me pitching this idea to a label?”

The set includes a new version of the previously released “Out of My System” and “Everyone’s Stupid,” a tune Westerberg performed last September at First Avenue for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “The Craft” program.

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Matty Lang on 07/24/2008 - 11:43 am.

    I’m only at the 5:31 point and I’ve already fallen for this album. We are truly lucky to have Mr. Westerberg’s work to enjoy.

  2. Submitted by Corey Anderson on 07/24/2008 - 08:52 am.

    I listened to a few songs on my way into work – some good mid-tempo rockers – sounded like it was gearing up for something bigger by the time I hit the office parking lot. The 23 tracks downloading as one big song discourages track-jumping – maybe it’s a savvy new way to save the album!

  3. Submitted by David Brauer on 07/24/2008 - 10:01 am.

    … and we’re back.

    On one straight-through listen, a very pleasurable 49 cents spent. Very poppy, in that ineffable rockin’ Westerberg way. Didn’t have much change to dig into the lyrics, but this will get repeat plays in my house.

  4. Submitted by David Brauer on 07/24/2008 - 08:45 am.

    Hey Michael – you’re a savvy, cool music dude: what did YOU think of this thing?

    I’m downloading it and will avoid hypocrisy shortly.

  5. Submitted by g.r. anderson jr. on 07/24/2008 - 10:56 am.

    Haven’t had a chance to listen, but 20 years ago, Prince did the same thing with “Lovesexy”: no individual tracks, just a bunch of songs that appeared as one to the CD player (remember those?).

    Prince, of course, was scalded at the time for a stupid move (and maybe it was), but perhaps he was somehow ahead of the curve on something yet again?

    Anyway, gotta scrounge for change in the couch cushions before I download it …

  6. Submitted by Michael Metzger on 07/24/2008 - 12:04 pm.

    David,

    I love “49.” I’ve listened to it seven or eight times straight through since downloading it Tuesday. The first three songs are my favorites. They remind me of Alex Chilton and Big Star, which isn’t a shock or revelation considering Chilton’s influence on Westerberg (Chilton was originally supposed to produce “Tim”).

    Some of the segues and back-forth edits and splices and jumpstarts and hard stops are a little offputting at first. It’s like Paul was sitting around playing with his computer and trying out Audacity or some similar software. But from what I understand, he doesn’t have a computer and doesn’t know how to get online.

    So he’s like John McCain in that sense. Maybe rocks a bit more like Obama, though.

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