Like Rudolph Valentino

For a brief day, I tried Tumblr. I wrote one piece. Here it is, for reasons of a personal interest in keeping it all in one place.

Just when I thought Paul Westerberg’s solo career wasn’t exactly a gold mine, I stumbled upon Stereo.

Filled with a series of low-key and spacious guitar-driven songs, this record shows Westerberg for more than the Replacements front man and piss-drunk rager he’s been memorialized as. It’s a record that excels by way of an aged perspective and smoky atmosphere, but its consistent themes of pain, regret and longing offer the album’s perspective a sharper, more potent voice.

“Got You Down” emphasizes this more than others.

By way of lyrics like “it’s been a while since you’ve seen him, though” and Westerberg’s own delivery, this song encapsulates uncertainty and offers a strong image, and while it’s written from the perspective of a then 43-year-old man it brings any listener back to those first concerns of love. You can picture the woman Westerberg sings about as someone trapped in her home, and she stares out the window as she waits for a phone call from her man. It’s that idea of constantly wondering: what are THEY up to, and why am I not with them?

Though it’s centered on two individuals, the “him” and “her” of the song, Westerberg creates a third character in this love triangle when he sings “try telling you that.” From there, Westerberg’s voice is involved, and by repeating this I-told-you-so punchline, it persuades a listener to believe he’s concerned for the woman – maybe even in love.

All of this comes back to Westerberg’s theme of longing , which then leads to pain and regret. By falling in love, he suggests that unless you capture that other person, you become subject to a sense of control, which is a possible way to interpret the song’s title. Rather than reading the word “down” as being an example of the blues, it can also be read as oppressive, and it suggests the song’s male character as having the woman figured out and in his grasp – “he knows you like the back of his hand.”

It is interesting to have this song tackled more so from the woman’s tail-end of things. Usually, it seems this subject would be led from a male’s perspective, but pursuing the song as he does Westerberg brings along a softness which completes the grey picture he’s painting. From the man’s side of things, “Got You Down” might read a little more angry and sound a little more typical.

I’ve been lost in this song a lot, lately, for my own personal reasons, but if anything it shows Westerberg capable of more than classics like “Unsatisfied” and “Answering Machine.”

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