Paul Westerberg to all too few people is a legend of the indie scene, after fronting one of the seminal alternative bands of the eighties The Replacements (aka The 'Mats) he decided to pursue a solo career which since it's inception has been met with mixed reaction from both fans and critics.
Although where The Replacements focussed on combining punk fury with more pop fuelled melody and songcraft Westerbergs solo material loses all traces of his punk past and instead aims for a wider scope. Rather than relying on fiery guitar performance with the occasional crazy piano interlude he now seems content to incorporate elements of folk and european pop music as well as basic rock hooks.
Suicaine Gratification is his third attempt at a solo album (although many people believe the final Replacements album to practically be a solo project making this technically the fourth), and it must be said that he's still not doing too bad on the creativity side of things. The album has a slightly depressing feel to it due mainly to Paul's mental state after his previous not so well received albums.
Although the album does seem overall low key there are several more optimistic points during its course which stop it becoming "Radiohead" depressing, whereas there are the anguished tales of lost love or just pure boredom with life such as stunning opener "It's a Wonderful Lie" or piano driven ballad "Self Defense", these moments are counteracted with more upbeat rockers like "Lookin' Out Forever" and "Tears Rolling Up Our Sleeves".
Of course if the album contained only these moods it would quickly become tiresome however as always with Westerberg emotional honesty comes first so the track list also covers quiet introspection ("Sunrise Always Listens"), venemous sarcasm ("Whatever Makes You Happy", "Best Thing That Never Happened") and even some romance ("Born For Me").
The main detractor of the album actually happens to be concerned with the production, although unlike with most bands where poor production dampen the impact, with Westerberg poor production only helps to strengthen his anxiously honest wailing, but since this is his first major label release the production seems to restrain him from the caterwauling of his Replacements heyday.
Overall if the album was less concerned with sharp concise songs and more with just letting Paul loose it would be bumped up to four stars, but as it stands it is still worth picking up for the fans and the melodies may also prove catchy enough to draw in newcomers, just don't go expecting anything close to his older stuff.