Tommy Stinson is a legend. His work with The Replacements provided the heart of the Minneapolis punk scene in the early 80s, and by the end of the decade, the band’s more melodic sounds had paved the way for varying styles of alternative rock. With his other often overlooked bands Bash & Pop and Perfect, he took the Replacements’ sound even further, dabbling with power pop and even rootsier sounds. With that in mind, although this release from his Cowboys In The Campfire is billed as a “country album”, it’s best bits aren’t quite as massive a musical shift as some people might believe.
As always, it’s been an interesting year for music, but unlike a few previous years, there have been no clear winners or stand-outs. There has been a lot of great music, of course…and this year, we’ve found it very hard to pick favourites.
Our top ten albums, as always, has been restricted to things that actually got reviewed at Real Gone and very much represent our broad musical scope. Hopefully, a couple of our choices will align with yours, but more importantly, we hope our top picks will open your ears to something new.
It’s Friday night in Ramsgate. In the harbour, people are going about their usual Friday night business, drinking Belgian beers and eating tapas. On the other side of town, at the Ramsgate Music Hall, something far more unexpected is about to happen. Tommy Stinson is about to take the stage with his band Bash & Pop. For those still unaware, Tommy is a cult hero, possibly even a legend. Between the early 80s and 90s, he played bass with The Replacements, a garage rock/punk band who gained a devoted following and became influential to a future generation of musicians. He’s been a member of both Soul Asylum and Guns N’ Roses. In between those musical ventures, he’s put out a couple of great solo records and two releases with a largely overlooked band, the ironically named Perfect.
For years, Hüsker Dü fans have desperately wanted a reunion. Much like fellow Minneapolis punks The Replacements, the Hüskers became hugely influential, and all too often to musicians who never actually got to see them live. Obviously, for many Replacements fans, that dream eventually came true, but even at a time when Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson were on the road bringing maximum nostalgia, each of the Hüsker Dü members dismissed any chance of a reunion.
The Replacements broke up in 1991. During their lifetime, they became one of the world’s greatest cult bands, gaining a legion of loyal fans, the actor Matt Dillon among them. Following the split, bassist Tommy Stinson embarked on an interesting career, as frontman of his own bands Bash & Pop (whose sole album ‘Friday Night Is Killing Me’ an essential listen for ‘Mats devotees), and Perfect, maker of solo records and as a touring member of Soul Asylum. Rather unbelievably, he’s also been a member of Guns N’ Roses – an odd move, certainly, but one Stinson has previously claimed pays well. Guitarist/vocalist Paul Westerberg released a string of excellent solo recordings, some of a rather lo-fi persuasion, but always showing the songwriter’s gift for a lyric. In a move that pretty much no fans ever expected, Westerberg and Stinson reunited in 2012 as The Replacements, played their own live shows and appeared at festivals across the US.
In 2015, the even more unexpected occurred when The ’Mats announced gigs in the UK. For some fans this would be a great opportunity for revisiting their youth, but for many – and certainly for a huge part of the audience present at The Roundhouse on June 2nd – their first live experience of the band. A proper bucket list job.