Life can be cruel and unfair in any number of ways, but forming a college-radio band before the alternative-rock windfall kicked in must be in God’s top 10. A decade ago the Replacements, Husker Du, and (more recently) Dinosaur Jr recorded melodic, post-punk blare for small, independent labels, laying the groundwork for everyone from Nirvana to Stone Temple Pilots in the process. But in the pre-Nevermind era, not as many people were listening. Now, years after Husker Du and the Replacements disbanded (Dinosaur Jr plow on), the music they had pioneered is a staple of MTV and soda commercials. And on new solo albums, the thirtysomething leaders of those bands — Bob Mould, Paul Westerberg, and J Mascis — find themselves competing against younger, more photogenic musicians who learned a thing or three from those old records.
Despite his public pronouncements on the matter, it must have been a little bit painful for Paul Westerberg to flip on the radio and hear a Replacements copycat song like the Goo Goo Dolls’ recent hit ”Name.” With the ‘Mats, Westerberg merged beautiful-loser introspection with songs that made you laugh or sob; he may have been the most human songwriter of his generation. Eventually will make you want to cry too, but for altogether different reasons. A few songs, like ”These Are the Days,” have the chimy wistfulness of old times, but Eventually is a depressing echo of the past. Nearly every song, whether a lounge piano ballad like ”Hide N Seekin”’ or a fast-and-loud raver like ”You’ve Had It With You,” sounds like a rehash of a Replacements oldie. It’s possible to recycle one’s own licks with energy and flair — just ask Chuck Berry or AC/DC. Yet Westerberg’s new batch of songs doesn’t feel merely secondhand, but dispirited, and the humor in lines like ”I’m fadin’ faster than a UK pop star” is undercut with an uncomfortable bitterness.
Westerberg is still capable of touching insight. On the album’s most poignant song, ”MamaDaddyDid,” he plaintively sings of his lack of interest in raising a family. The song is tinged with melancholy and regret but retains its feistiness. It’s unfortunate that the rest of Eventually didn’t take the same route. C+