Paul Westerberg has made a career of messy-haired misery -- first as the voice of college-rock superheroes The Replacements and later as a Singles-era, Dylan-esque solo artist. On "Suicane Gratification," his third solo album, Westerberg continues to age gracelessly into a victim of both the music industry and musical irrelevance. Produced by the ubiquitous, middle-aged, messy-haired Don Was, the album teeters about with forced slacker charm, aiming for something of a Tom Waits appeal but achieving more of a suicide-hued Tom Petty emptiness.
That isn't to say there's no charm to be found here. "It's a Wonderful Lie," the first track, is clever in spite of itself. "It's a wonderful lie," sings Westerberg, "I still get by on those." But the born-loser motif runs dry by mid-album, where similar assertions like "The Best Thing That Never Happened" and "Final Hurrah" are redundant and slightly embarrassing. "Suicane Gratification" (the title, reports Westerberg, means nothing to anyone but him) finds an old friend in a bad patch doing nothing at all to get out of it.
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