Home Read Classic Album Reviews: Paul Westerberg | Come Feel Me Tremble / Grandpaboy...

Classic Album Reviews: Paul Westerberg | Come Feel Me Tremble / Grandpaboy | Dead Man Shake

The influential, enigmatic & frustratingly unaccommodating singer-songwriter offers separate but simultaneously released discs of intermittent brilliance and balderdash.

This came out in 2003 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


Being a Paul Westerberg fan is a lot like loving the Chicago Cubs or having a deadbeat dad: Even after you end up with a broken heart, you keep coming back for more — and telling yourself that this time around, things will be different.

But they never are — the Cubbies always choke, Dad always forgets your birthday, and Paul never quite pulls it together enough to make a masterpiece on par with The ReplacementsTim. So, once again, you take what you can get — in this case, two separate but simultaneously released discs of intermittent brilliance and balderdash from the most influential, enigmatic and frustratingly unaccommodating songwriter of his time.

The first one, Come Feel Me Tremble, purports to be a soundtrack to a new tour documentary, even though it consists of home-studio recordings that aren’t in the film. In typical Westerbergian fashion, these 14 cuts are predominantly lazy, underwritten guitar-rockers and roots-ballads that aim for swagger but usually end up lurching and limping along, barely managing to get by on Paul’s raspy shrug of a voice and winking, world-weary wit.

The second CD, Dead Man Shake, is the third release by his unsecret alter-ego Grandpaboy. Although this may be hard to believe, these 14 cuts form an even looser and noisier disc than Tremble, with Paul pitching a one-man hootenanny of ragged rockabilly, sloppy blues and country covers, and surprisingly earnest ballads, mostly hidden behind blankets of reverb, tape hiss and self-defeat.

Listening to both discs back-to-back makes you first glad (simply to have 28 new songs to savour), then a little sad or perhaps even mad (once you notice he’s not really trying very hard). Still, if you’re a fan you won’t regret buying these for one second. And even as you listen, you’ll already be tempering your disappointment with the knowledge that the increasingly prolific Paul already has his next album in the can — a rootsier disc called Folker, due next spring. And this time around, you will tell yourself, things will be different.


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