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Suicaine Gratification

music reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: Suicaine Gratification

Artist: Paul Westerberg
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: February 1999

Review by LarryG
2 stars out of 4

After making some of the best rock and roll of the 80's with the Replacements, it's sad that Paul Westerberg seems to have become somewhat directionless. Suicaine Gratification has some great moments consistent with his skills as a songwriter but it's often disappointingly lifeless. It's a little weird hearing Westerberg, who made raucous, cocky music with the Replacements, making such subdued music. The idea seems to be to reestablish Westerberg as an older, wiser performer. He gets the mature artist treatment with Don Was, who helped resuscitate Bonnie Raitt's career on Nick of Time, producing the record. The sound is great. Was and Westerberg keep the arrangements simple and clear, adding some good touches like the french horn which accompanies Westerburg on the nice, simple Self Defense. Westerberg's writing can be strong enough to stand up to close attention. Born for Me is a sweet heartfelt love song that benefits from a clean, uncluttered sound. But an album with a lot of slow, reflective songs doesn't exactly play to Westerberg's strengths. He's not a great or impressive singer. Especially in the second half of the cd, some of the songs are so laid back that they barely register. Actor in the Street, Bookmark and Sunrise Always Listens have nice enough lyrics but the music, while lushly produced, is too innocuous. It's a Wonderful Life sounds like one of those boring, wistful Rod Stewart memory songs. Three of the best songs are more up tempo pieces where Westerberg shows a little life. The only song that's really a rocker, Looking Out Forever, about giving up on a love but not forgetting her, is a good one. It's a little like the Ledge from the Replacements' Pleased to Meet Me. Best Thing That Never Happened, where Westerberg gently taunts an ex for ending up with worse than she would have had with him, is a pleasant, slower version of his Dyslexic Heart. Whatever Makes You Happy is a nice, clean song which seems to be a model for the kind of rocker Westerberg can still feel comfortable with as he gets older. It's not as frenzied as his earlier work but it still has some energy. The lyrics, like those on other songs on the record, are strangely submissive. It seems out of character for the usually confident Westerburg to be saying whatever you say, dear. Picking up the beat is not totally the answer for Westerberg. Fugitive Kind is O.K. but largely undistinguished and drags on too long. Final Hurrah sounds like lots of previous Westerberg compositions and has no particular raison d'etre.The main reason for the basically pointless Tears Rolling Up Our Sleeves, which has a terrible cheesy keyboard line, seems to be for Westerberg to show off that he can play all the instruments. Paul Westerberg still has a facility for making good, thoughtful music but hopefully he won't decide that he's too old to rock.

Here's what others reviewers have to say:

"...SUICAINE GRATIFICATION bears all the halmarks of his modest genius - a habit of writing stunningly obvious tunes, a knack for wittily morose lyrics..." New Musical Express 4/10/99, p.33

"...the former Replacements leader returns to basement basics on this loose and lovely lo-fi effort....Alternating rave-up rockers with wistful piano ballads about doomed romantics, GRATIFICATION is a reminder of why Westerberg's songwriting first provided such a jolt." - Rating: A- Entertainment Weekly 2/19-2/26/99, p.141



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