Song 32: Paul Westerberg, “As Far As I Know” (2004)

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For the longest time, if I had a song stuck in my head, it was “As Fas As I Know” by Paul Westerberg. This was especially likely to happen if I was walking briskly, because this song perfectly fits that speed. It seems to exist at some neutral rhythm, some natural state of being. It just is.

I have a feeling that Westerberg doesn’t think much of this song. I’m not sure why I think that; possibly because I know that he hastily recorded it in his basement. But I think it’s an amazing little pop song, with “little” being a strength—this song accomplishes a lot in its three minutes and (mostly) three chords.

I keep saying this on this blog, but the melody here is so simple. I don’t understand how a melody like this—mostly consisting of the eight notes in a major scale—hasn’t been used before. So many combinations left, after all these years! Incredible.

Despite those constraints, the song builds, in its way. When Westerberg’s voice cracks slightly on “kid” in the last verse, it’s like he’s lost his composure just a little bit, for a split second. For this wistful, breezy song, it’s the equivalent of all hell breaking loose on a rock epic by the Who or Led Zeppelin. It’s all relative.

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