Back in 2012, one of the signs of the impending apocalypse came to pass: The Replacements got back together. I remember seeing them break up on stage in 1993 at the WXRT concert in Chicago and figured that there was such animosity in the band that any attempt at a reunion would be futile. Turns out I was right, as The Replacements only managed to put out an EP of covers and mount a few half-assed tours before Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson discovered once again that they couldn't stand each other. In the wake of that collapse, Paul Westerberg pursued a project with Julianna Hatfield, which they dubbed The I Don't Cares. The resulting album "Wild Stab", came out last week. Often times, collaborations like this end up being a disappointment, but "Wild Stab" is filled with enough good music to make it worthwhile. Paul Westerberg sounds great. Not as great as he sounded in "14 Songs", but certainly better than he has sounded in recent years. And Juliana Hatfield's contributions are reminiscent of her work with Evan Dando and The Lemonheads. Their voices go well together. does, too; their ragged harmonies are sweet and living - reminding me a bit of Julie and Buddy Miller's - their voices belong together.
Peter Wolf, in a recent interview with Paul Westerberg, described the I Don't Cares album as being like a diamond: “It’s like a nice jewel, you just keep rubbing it, and it starts shining”. That's an apt description, mainly because "Wild Stab" rose up from Juliana Hatfield polishing off Paul Westerberg's old demos. Yet, Wolf's diamond analogy also works because, the more you listen to "Wild Stab", the more it grows on you. I've run through it about four times over the last week, and, for me, the stand out tracks are "Outta My System", "1/2 2P", "Wear Me Out Loud", "Born For Me" and "Back". It's not nearly as well produced as "14 Songs", which is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of Paul Westerberg 's career, but that's part of the appeal. It sounds somewhat gritty and unpolished, yet it's layered and emotional.
“I go with goosebumps and the ear,” Paul Westerberg told Peter Wolf. “When I feel it, then it’s done, it’s ready…. You do it with computers and shit — you can fix everything. And people do. Why compete with that? Everybody can make a perfect record in their basement, bedroom, on their phone. That’s not gonna serve anything. I don’t want to make a perfect record.” And he didn't. "Wild Stab" isn't perfect. But, it doesn't need to be. It sounds great as it is.
For more insight into The I Don't Cares and the current mindset of Paul Westerberg, check out the interview that Peter Wolf did with him recently.