TOMMY STINSON – One Man Mutiny

one man mutinyTo those without a proper musical education, Tommy Stinson is the bassist with Guns N’ Roses. Everyone else will be aware of his cult legendary status as an ex-member of Minneapolis punk/alternative/college rock band The Replacements and live member of Soul Asylum. In addition, Stinson has recorded solo works and fronted a couple of cult bands. The Bash & Pop album ‘Friday Night Is Killing Me’ (released back in 1993) is essential listening, capturing Stinson’s post-Replacements brand of trashy rock at its finest.

There seems to be an unwritten rule for any musicians once associated with The Replacements, the rule being that most of their post-Replacements work contains a strong echo of that band (it’s even true for the four solo releases by drummer Chris Mars). Stinson’s second solo release, ‘One Man Mutiny’ is no different – and for longtime fans, does exactly what it says on the tin. Across ten songs, TS taps into a brand of rock which combines roots and Americana, but more often than not served up with a liberal bar-room swagger which would make Mick and Keef proud.

With its basic stomp and drawled vocals, ‘Don’t Deserve You’ comes across as particularly heavy handed (even for Stinson), but it’s given a timely lift by some top-notch lead work played in an angular fashion. Hardly Stinson’s finest hour, but it’s an improvement from then on. ‘It’s a Drag’ taps into Stinson’s beloved Rolling Stones fixation, with ‘Gimme Shelter’-esque rhythm guitars, aggressive slide and Stinson’s nasal vocals backed by female harmonies. This is why you’ve always loved Stinson, and although you’ve heard him churn out variants of this kind of thing time and again, it’s what you came looking for when you chose to check out ‘One Man Mutiny’. Since this kind of thing has been effective for Stinson for a couple of decades, there’s no reason for him to change.

With the almost wholly acoustic ‘Zero To Stupid’, Stinson taps into the psyche of former bandmate Paul Westerberg, with a sneering vocal across a country number which celebrates the inability to hold your drink. While the arrangement remains percussion-free throughout, an upfront bass does a great job at marking time, and while a few of the yodely vocals are a little unnecessary, the lapsteel accompaniment brings an element of class, albeit in a slightly inebriated style. The lapsteels carry over to ‘Match Made In Hell’, which is perkier all round thanks to some plinky-plunky ukulele sounds and glockenspiels. While Stinson doesn’t sound as at home here as he does churning out Stones homages, this is enjoyable enough, with his nasal voice well suited to the arrangement.

‘All This Way For Nothing’ also sounds different at first with a bouncy pop arrangement featuring prominent keys, though within a couple of bars, Stinson reverts to what he knows best: the slide guitars kick in and his drawling voice carries a rousing pop/rock number with a simple chorus. The hallmarks of a Replacements related recording are here in spades; if you’re a fan of that band and its various solo offshoots, this’ll grab you instantly. The jangling guitars which drive ‘Meant To Be’ and ‘Sieze The Moment’ are even further in keeping with the Replacements work circa ‘Don’t Tell A Soul’; even the vocal structures lends themselves to something which would have suited Paul Westerberg. You’ve heard it all before, so often in fact that no further elaboration needs be made; even so, in terms of well-rounded, well-written numbers, this pair represent ‘One Man Army’s real gems.

The title cut is a simple acoustic workout which was cut live in a hotel at 3am. After a false start, Stinson’s voice wavers as he stretches his voice and occasionally fudges lyrics as if they’re not quite complete. While not the best cut on the album, it’s raw, intimate nature brings the listener closer to the artist. Not a patch on Paul Westerberg’s similar work from his ‘Stereo’ disc, but it’s not without a certain rustic charm.

Although a little rootsier and more retrained than some of his previous works, Stinson is unlikely to win new converts with ‘One Man Army’. That said, it’s great that he’s returned to studio work and for his army of devoted followers, this release will be essential.

August 2011