Saturday, March 2, 2019

Certain Songs #1468: Paul Westerberg – “The Only Lie Worth Telling” | Medialoper

Album: Stereo
Year: 2002

One of the ironies of Stereo — which was, as per the cover, “Recorded in Realistic Stereo” — as compared to its companion piece, Mono, was that it was a relatively sparse record which probably would have sounded just fine recorded in mono, since many of the songs were just Paul Westerberg’s guitar and vocals. Yes, there were overdubs, and even drums on a couple tracks. That said, the songs on Stereo were fully dependent on his melodies, lyrics and vocals, because Stereo didn’t bring the rock hardly at all.

Which is why it was such a triumph: while Paul had written some of the greatest ballads I’ve ever heard, I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear a whole record’s worth, but Stereo proved my fears wrong, as a song like “The Only Lie Worth Telling” stood up with his greatest tearjerkers.

It’s mostly just a strummed electric guitar and sparse bass, as Paul makes a request.

Call me when your arms are empty
That’s the only way it can be
Call me when you’re full of pretty lies
Call me when your eyes are empty
And open all night

He’s waiting for something, something that he knows isn’t going to be real, but he doesn’t necessarily care that it it’s a lie, just as long as he hears the lie he wants to hear. Perhaps even a wonderful lie, since as we’ve previously established, he still gets by on those.

You lied enough
Open wide enough
To drive a truck straight through
Only lie worth telling
Is “I’m in love with you”
Only lie worth telling
Is “I’m in love with you”

Of course it comes down down to the vocals and the melody: the way he holds out the word “liiiiiiiiiiiiieeeee” with his voice simultaneously aching and breaking over a plethora of harmony overdubs that pretty it up without sanding away the edges. It’s a great, heartbreaking chorus, and a bridge and a solo that was almost too virtuosic for its own good — but low-key enough that you might almost miss it — before heading straight back into that chorus for the last minute of the song.

“The Only Lie Worth Telling”

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