Westerberg To Release (Relatively) Quiet Album

Suicaine Gratifaction started as ballads album; ended up with some rockers, too.

Eight years after the demise of the Replacements, Paul Westerberg was ready, he said,
to make a record with no traces of his former outfit’s loud, raucous and sometimes sloppy
sound.

He almost succeeds on Suicaine Gratifaction. Westerberg’s third solo album, due
Feb. 23, features some brooding piano ballads, including “Self-Defense” and “Sunrise
Always Listens,” and plenty of other acoustic touches.

“I would have preferred it would have been a darker, ’Self-Defense’-style record all the
way through,” Westerberg, 39, said Wednesday. “Only, toward of the end of the sessions,
they started to think, ’Maybe we need more upbeat material,’ and Don [Was, the album’s
producer] was in agreement. So invariably you have songs with drums. But I was up for
making a very quiet solo record.”

Westerberg gained acclaim as the singer/songwriter in the Replacements, the influential
Minneapolis band whose eight LPs featured songs as chaotic as “Mr. Whirly” and
heartrending as “Unsatisfied” and “Answering Machine”
(RealAudio excerpt).

The two albums he’s released since the band’s 1991 breakup — 14 Songs (1993)
and Eventually (1996) — were softer, less frantic outings that put the focus more
squarely on Westerberg’s singing and songwriting; they included such tunes as “Love Untold” (RealAudio excerpt) and “Once Around the Weekend”
(RealAudio excerpt).

Suicaine Gratifaction goes even further, favoring quiet, acoustic instrumentation
on such songs as “It’s a Wonderful Lie” and “Born for Me,” a duet with singer/songwriter
Shawn Colvin.

But Westerberg throws open the barn door for the all-out rockers “Lookin’ Out Forever”
and “Final Hurrah.” “Fugitive Kind” splits the difference; it features a soft piano intro but
turns, midway through, into a full-blown rock number.

Besides Colvin, the album features guest spots by singer Dave Pirner of fellow
Minneapolis rockers Soul Asylum and keyboardist Benmont Tench from Tom Petty’s
Heartbreakers. But Westerberg worked alone for much of the album, playing guitar,
piano, keyboards, melodica, bass and percussion.

Westerberg continues to tug at hearts while turning catchy phrases in “Best Thing That
Never Happened” and “Whatever Makes You Happy,” in which he sings, “Whatever
makes me lonesome/ It’s the same thing that sets you free/ Now whatever makes you
happy/ I’m pretty sure it isn’t me.”

Ideas for some of the 12 songs on Suicaine Gratifaction — the title is two made-up
words Westerberg has said he likes the sound of — came on the long walks he regularly
takes.

“There’s nowhere [the songs] all come together,” he said. “I collect thoughts and read. A
lot of the collection starts in the bathtub, where I scratch things down. I still write a good
deal in my basement. But it’s on my walks I take where I get my best stuff and things
come to me.”