It’s a weird quirk of the alphabet that the most recent music by one of my all-time heroes, Paul Westerberg, shows up before The Replacements or his solo work in Certain Songs, but here we are.
Because it showed up on the heels of the Replacements reunion, and because it showed up instead of any new Replacements songs, the I Don’t Cares Wild Stab album coulda been the biggest pop culture FU to fans since John From Cincinnati, but instead, I think its Westerberg’s strongest record since 2000’s Stereo/Mono .
Collaborating with indie icon Juliana Hatfield, Wild Stab doesn’t sound much different than most of the music Westerberg’s been making since he gave up the dream of ever finding success commensurate with his ridiculous songwriting gift and retreated to his basement.
Therefore, the ragged guitars and raggedy beats that have characterized his 21st century output remain in place, but with Hatfield clearly reining in his more self-destructive tendencies and adding just enough sweet harmonies to emphasize the great melodies Paul still writes in his sleep, Wild Stab is consistent throughout.
And it goes without saying that when he’s still kicking out self-depreciating couplets like “Whole Lotta Nothin’s” “I’m an icon / Everybody hit delete” , the lyrical chops that helped us fall in love decades ago are still intact.
So while it would have been nice to have a new Replacements record to accompany Bob Mehr’s excellent Trouble Boys, I can’t imagine anybody who loves them being surprised that it didn’t happen. Sad, sure, but not surprised.
In the meantime, we get “King of America,” my favorite Westertoon since “AAA,” and one of my favorite songs of the past couple of years.
Layered with electric and acoustic guitars and a massive amount of vocal overdubs, “King of America” ambles along over what is probably a drum machine (which Paul’s been getting away with using since 1983), as Paul imagines himself as his audience once again:
I have worn your cheap little outfits
I have taken your sickening drugs
You tried to sweep me under your carpet
Then decided I had enough
And of course, it’s the chorus which kills, juxtposing the layers of vocals angelically (OK, relatively angelically) singing and a trademark Westerbergian broken-voices whoop:
Shout it out!!
King of America
I wanna be
Should it out!!
Shout it out!!
King of America
Whether or not the I Don’t Cares is really a going concern isn’t something I’m going to concern myself with. 25 years after The Replacements initially ceased to exist, I’ve learned to not worry about what any of them — especially Paul, who owes me nothing — are going to do next.
But damn straight I’m going to be interested, especially as long as he has songs like “King of America” still in the chamber.
Oh, and I’ll have a ton to say about his solo career, and — duh! — The Replacements, in a couple of years or so.
Official Video for “King of America”
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