Things have been pretty quiet on the Paul Westerberg front for a while—the Replacements songwriter's last solo record (
Folker) is four years old, and he's been mostly sidelined from playing guitar for a year or so thanks to a hand injury incurred while fighting zombies with a switchblade and a broken bottle. Hm? Oh, sorry, I meant "while scraping candle wax." At any rate, Westerberg broke his silence earlier this week with the release of 49, a single-track mp3 containing more than a dozen songs, including several new tunes and a classic-rock medley covering the Partridge Family and Elton John, among others.
Westerberg insisted that the online-only album should only cost 49 cents; thus, it's only available on Amazon.com and tunecore.com because only those retailers "would play ball with me on the price point," manager Darren Hill told Billboard. (Links to both stores can be found at Westerberg's website.) The original release date for 49 was intended to be "June 49," or July 19, but an unforeseen delay bumped that back a couple of days to the 21st. (Any grand numerological plans were already messed up anyway, since the album clocks in at 43:55, not 49:00.)
Westerberg's penchant for lo-fi, rough, DIY recording—familiar to anyone who's heard his Grandpaboy project, or The Replacements Stink for that matter—is in full effect on 49; he plays all the instruments, gave none of the songs official individual titles, mixed the songs so that sometimes two are playing simultaneously, and released the album less than a week after finishing it. Anticipating his critics (or maybe just warning them), his "liner notes to 49 include the statement "THIS PRODUCT IS NOT FAULTY - ALL SOUNDS ARE INTENTIONAL AND VALID AS A WORK OF ART." (Echoing, I guess, what another Minneapolis musician put a little more pithily.) Westerberg's manager hints at more new music in the works, so 49's potentially confounding roughness might well just be Westerberg just stretching his legs after a long time off.
In other Replacements news, Rhino Records reissued the band's early records in April in deluxe extra-tracks-and-bells-and-whistles versions, and will finish the series in September with expanded versions of the Mats' last four albums, Tim, Pleased To Meet Me, Don't Tell A Soul, and All Shook Down.