May 06, 2002 12:00 PM

Paul Westerberg (Vagrant)

Album of the week

After Prince, Paul Westerberg was probably the most influential pop musician to come out of Minneapolis in the ’80s. As the leader of the Replacements, which disbanded in 1991, he left his mark on everyone from grunge bands like Nirvana to pop rockers such as the Goo Goo Dolls. In his solo career, though, Westerberg has tempered his garage-punk with subdued, reflective balladry. On these two new discs, he segregates the 23 songs: Stereo is pensive, while Mono is rowdy.

Mono—which, according to the liner notes, was “played in a hurry, with sweaty hands and unsure reason”—has a raw, unfinished quality that is sometimes bracing but always invigorating. Westerberg brings a tunefulness to even the noisiest moments. Stereo, recorded over two years, is a much deeper, more developed work, but it still has plenty of rough edges, cutting off some tracks abruptly. Even at his most adult, Westerberg, 42, shows that you can take the boy out of the garage but you can’t take the garage out of the boy.

Bottom Line: A pair of bull’s-eyes from the Westerberg canon

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