Manchester Explosion

Stereo/Mono

In prioritizing the contents of this two-disc set (priced as a single CD), former Replacements leader Paul Westerberg has it backward.

In prioritizing the contents of this two-disc set (priced as a single CD), former Replacements leader Paul Westerberg has it backward. The draw isn't the ostensible main event, Stereo, despite such smart, sensitive highlights as "Only Lie Worth Telling." Instead, the gem is the "bonus" disc, Mono, billed to Westerberg's new indie nom de rock, Grandpa Boy. Just as the busking, basement-tapes balladry of Stereo feels wan and undercooked—à la the disappointing Suicaine Gratifaction (1999) and Eventually ('96) —the rough-and-ready rock of Mono brims with the thoughtfulness and soulful energy of Westerberg's 1993 solo debut, 14 Songs, and his ever-influential Replacements catalog. Something of a spiritual Replacements reunion (supposedly with bassist/catalyst Tommy Stinson in tow), Mono has a vintage rock'n'roll majesty to it; the bruised melancholy in Westerberg's voice and the virile bite of his electric guitar—as well as the tuneful wit of his best songs in ages and the one-take urgency of the band—hark back to the Replacements' Tim and Pleased to Meet Me. Far more than blasts of nostalgia, such songs as "High Time" and "AAA" are evidence of a great talent once again sounding like himself.—BB