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The I Don’t Cares – Wild Stab

January 25, 2016

Funny how timing works out.  These last few days I was digging The Replacements’ gunslinger Slim Dunlap’s early 90s solo albums when I realized that Mats’ frontman Paul Westerberg  had a new release.  Actually he is in a new band called The I Don’t Cares featuring himself and Juliana Hatfield.  A few months ago I had heard the preview single called “1/2 2 P.”  I am album guy, so it is hard for me to get hooked on a single – especially one that has kind of a novelty feel (go ahead and say the song title out loud).

I have been listening to Wild Stab repeatedly for the last 48 hours and it gets better with every play.  This is the best Westerberg album since his early solo work in the 90s: 1990’s All Shook Down (the last Replacements album) through 1999’s Suicaine Gratifaction.  As much as I loved those albums, their production values were a bit fussy and had the dirty fingerprints of a producer all over them.  Wild Stab is much closer to the production values of the Mats’ Let It Be – not sloppy, but like Exile On Mainstreet: honest, naked and  beautiful.  The best rock and roll is about authenticity – whether silly or serious – it has to be real.  Wild Stab is as real as it gets. I can’t tell you why, I just trust Westerberg and Hatfield are telling us the truth.

My biggest question was what was the role of Juliana Hatfield?  She sings amazing backup to Westerberg – as Westerberg tells it Sandpaper and Daffodil.  But that did not seem a big enough contribution to warrant not calling this a Westerberg solo album. I started Googling to learn more about the album (why can’t Spotify have some semblance of liner notes?).  I found nothing of any value anywhere – until I came upon a recent interview that Westerberg did with J. Geils Band frontman Peter Wolf.  The one hour interview video is below.

Wow was that video revealing.  I don’t know who I thought Paul Westerberg was, but the video reveals a totally regular guy who happens to be one of his generation’s greatest songwriters.  He is serious about his work, but not too serious.  He is bit prickly in charming sort of way. As for Hatfield’s role in the album, it seems pretty profound: muse, producer and performer.   I am pretty sure after watching the video that this album would never have seen the light of day without Hatfield’s presence.

It is rare that an album does not have a single stiff – Wild Stab is all gems.  In the video interview Peter Wolf describes the album as a very romantic, spontaneous collaboration, with multiple layers of feeling. “It’s like a nice jewel,” he says, “you just keep rubbing it, and it starts shining.”  I couldn’t agree more.

When I saw the Mat’s on their reunion tour in September of 2014 I was blown away by how good they were – and Westerberg was a rock and roll god that night.  I had goosebumps all night.  It was nothing like the fall down drunks I had seen in the late 80s.  At the reunion show I savored every note assuming I would never experience Westerberg like this again.  But the SOB has pulled a rabbit out of his hat – he has taken a wild stab at creating something good and birthed a rustic masterpiece. Now I have a little bit of current day Westerberg magic to go with my old Mats and Westerberg solo records.   Ms. Hatfield I don’t know what you did, but thank you.

PS – this is most romantic album cover I have seen since Dylan’s  Freewheelin’.


From → Music Reviews

  1. All over this. No idea. Two of my favorite guys in music. Refreshing interview from all that terrible stuff they do on TV. No bullshit just two guys sitting down and talking about the process. Loving it. (The interview looks like it was shot at a cop shop in an interview room) Again Axl this is why I pop in. You are on top of things for CB. Wolf is like old school interviewer. Interested and knows his stuff. They are both listening to each other

  2. Just listened to it from top to bottom (I’m an album guy also) with no interruptions. Your review is dead on. Axl, this is like hanging with an old buddy. What a treat. Out of all the albums that I’ve read about on catchgroove, why would I choose this one? It shows where my heads at. Man is it good. Been a long time since I felt like this with a new album. Thanks for the kick in the ass towards Spotify (Music Enthusiast also gave me a nudge). “King Of America’ one listen and it’s a instant fave. Thanks man!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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