Despite the fact that he doesn’t have a computer and may never have been online in his life, Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg is the latest artist to embrace the Internet for rapid dissemination of new music.
Yesterday, Westerberg made available a 44-minute single MP3 file of a dozen-plus songs, dubbed “49,” for 49 cents. Amazon.com is handling the commerce via a link from the Westerberg Web site Men Without Ties. Tunecore will begin carrying the release later today.
“He finished it on Monday, sent it to me on Tuesday and it was out this weekend,” Westerberg manager Darren Hill tells Billboard.com. “It’s just wonderful that you can actually do this. The freedom an artist can enjoy these days is fantastic. Can you imagine me pitching this idea to a label?”
The 49-cent price was a joking suggestion from Westerberg to charge “a penny a minute,” but Amazon.com was the only digital retailer that “would play ball with me on the price point,” Hill says.
“49” has no track list or lyrics, keeping with a long-standing Westerberg tradition. But a handful of the songs will be familiar to hardcore fans, including an alternate version of “Out of My System,” which previously appeared on the compilation “Hot Stove, Cool Music,” and “Everyone’s Stupid,” which is written from the perspective of a pre-teen who discovers he’s the last to know about his parents’ impending divorce.
Westerberg played all the instruments on the decidedly lo-fi recordings, which often feature two songs playing at once for a few seconds and short snippets that abruptly cut off. “It’s almost like you’re scanning a radio dial,” Hill says. “You’re getting a glimpse inside of Paul’s head here.”
“49” concludes with a strange mash-up of partial covers such as the Partidge Family’s “I Think I Love You,” the Beatles’ “Hello, Goodbye,” Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild,” Simon & Garfunkel’s “I Am a Rock” and Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” and a rave-up apparently sung by Westerberg’s pre-teen son Johnny.
Without revealing specifics, Hill says “49” is “just the tip of a really large creative iceberg. Paul has been writing and recording at a furious pace.” However, he adds that “there are no plans or talk of doing any performances at the moment.”
Westerberg has only performed once since severely injuring his fretting hand in 2006 while trying to remove candle wax with a screwdriver: he was the subject of a September 2007 episode of “The Craft,” a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame chat-and-sing series a la VH1’s “Songwriters,” at Minneapolis’ First Avenue, during which “Everyone’s Stupid” was premiered.
As previously reported, the Replacements’ major-label catalog will be reissued in expanded form Sept. 23 via Rhino.