Paul Westerberg: ’80s or ’90s?

The 1997 compilation.

Here’s another Bob Dylanesque discussion topic: how ’90s is Paul Westerberg?

I can see both sides:

  • Yes: he did the Singles soundtrack!
  • No: he’s too ’80s-trashed to be ’90s-emo.

What do you think, Kara?

I did an essay about him for Nerve years ago, in which, prompted by a giddy IM conversation with Nerve’s former EIC, Michael Martin, I talked lots of trash on other lead singers.

The stars of the college rock scene were about as asexual a crowd as have ever made music. Billy Bragg and the Johns from They Might Be Giants? Hardly sex gods. Michael Stipe? Too shiny and happy. The Spin Doctors’ Chris Barron? Too boorish-pothead. Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus? Too damp-handshake pretentious. The Violent Femmes’ Gordon Gano? Too hippie-neighbor sleazy. Guided By Voices’ Robert Pollard? Too sleepy-sloppy. Jonathan Richman? Too neurotic (and word was he only went for suicidal strippers, anyway.) And if you don’t retch imagining yourself in bed with Evan Dando, I don’t want to know you.

The essay ends like this: Westerberg was actually a sexual being, making him the last guy left still standing at the party. After everyone else has passed out or puked on your shoes, there he is, a little bleary, smiling sadly. With all those lyrics about longing and booze and frustration, Paul Westerberg made himself the noble loser, the one you take home.

Okay, based on that I think I am saying he’s ’90s. More importantly, someone in the comments said they made out with him on a bus and he was a really good kisser.



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4 responses to “Paul Westerberg: ’80s or ’90s?

  1. (Disclaimer: I am a huge Replacements/Paul fan.)

    Okay, a lot of my guy friends who are ‘Mats nerds would say, unequivocally, 80s, to the point of denying he’s made music after, oh, say 1987. (Granted, most of these guys are over 45 and deny any music was made after 1987.) I’m torn. His 90s albums were routinely bashed, but this isn’t about his music. I met him once, about five years ago (did not kiss him, so I can’t vouch for his kissing ability) and it was more awkward than anything.

  2. Michael

    I think that his solo career and his marriage to Laurie Lindeen (of Zuzu’s Petals) are both completely ’90s. Sure, he was in the ‘Mats, and he was amazing in the ’80s, but Paul Westerburg himself AS Paul Westeburg is ’90s.

    Plus, his solo stuff is under-rated. It’s just different from his output with the ‘Mats.

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