Bastard of young

How the Hebrew school bully got the Perfect gig with a Replacement

When Marc joined Bash & Pop, the band was nearly history. Tommy was, by then, hating his own songs--"I always felt like I was holding back," he shrugs, "'cause you couldn't rock out with those songs"--and looking to start over. He missed the camaraderie of a true band, the sparks that came from the clashing of four personalities who were willing to give all of themselves to the common good. It's what made the Replacements great during their heyday, and the lack of that spirit made Tommy begin to loathe Bash & Pop.

"When I went out to make Bash & Pop, I set out to make that a band, but it never took off," he said. "I never found the people that were bandworthy. It went on and on, and when I moved out here it was a year before I decided to change the name. I tried other people, and at the point of finding Marc and Robert, it seemed stupid to call it Bash & Pop because the songwriting was so different."

"Tommy decided he wanted to start fresh," Marc said of the decision to form Perfect. "Tommy's big trip since the Mats was he wanted to be in a band again--with all the camaraderie, the sense of the roving youth gang."

The proof can be found in the demos, a spirited batch of songs that only prove the long-held theory that Tommy Stinson was the soul of the Replacements--the spark that ignited the gasoline, the perennial teen-ager Paul Westerberg always wanted to be. Perfect sounds more like the Replacements than Bash & Pop, but with the Faces fetish excised and the self-consciousness dismissed.

Stinson no longer sounds like a kid trying to step out of an older brother's shadow, but a frontman leading his own confident band. The songs--with titles like "Alternative Monkey," "Makes Me Happy," and "Don't Need to Know Where"--are powerful and catchy, bursting at the seams with reckless energy. It's hard to tell which guitar is Marc's, but he'd come out OK either way.

"The difference between Bash & Pop and Perfect is this is less blues-based and more pop-based," Stinson said. "There was a lot of that lingering Faces and shit influences on the Bash & Pop record, which is all fine, but I turned in a more pop direction. It's just the difference between writing songs in the attic and hashing them out with other guys. You just get a more collective and cohesive sound when you're hashing it out with other guys."

Yet Stinson said Warner Bros. did not want these songs, and for the first time since 1985's Tim, he's no longer signed to the label. Instead, Perfect is signed to the indie, Restless Records, which is planning on releasing a Perfect EP around June or July. Appropriately, Peter Jesperson--the man who signed the Replacements to Twin/Tone way back when--is in control at Restless, and he was the reason Perfect has a new home.

"It fucking comes completely full circle," Stinson said, laughing. "It's totally laughable and funny and ironic. Peter was my musical mentor from the time I was 12, and it's cool to have him back in my musical world." (Stinson also plays bass and trombone on one track on Westerberg's new record, Eventually, which is due to hit stores April 23 and the cutout bins some time in May.)

It is the great irony of Stinson's life that even as he approaches the rather young rock-and-roll age of 30--young especially considering he was 12 when the Replacements started--he's now playing in a band filled with Mats worshippers. Marc explained to me it's something of a fantasy come true to play with Tommy: "My big joke," he said, "is if you can't be the Replacements, join 'em." At the very least, Stinson figures playing with guys who used to worship you from afar at least cuts down on the practice time.

"It helps because they know where I come from and they can relate to the things I want," Tommy said during our conversation. "It's different than playing with people who aren't familiar with what I've done. I'm not that different from those old records, so it helps Robert loved the Mats and knows the Mats because he can integrate his style with mine. Marc knows where I come from, so he can put the two things together and come up with the right thing. That adoration thing went out the first day."

Yeah--with the first argument, the first fight, the first fist in the gut. Marc was the first, and last, guy to sock me, but I never mentioned it to him during our conversation. I was too busy trying to figure out whether I should believe him, and then too busy trying to decide whether or not to be sickened or impressed by his dumb luck. Probably a little of both, and I told this to Tommy--who then told Marc, who called back later in the day. "Man, I thought you forgot," he said, his grin perceptible through the long-distance line.

"Not on your life," I told him, and he laughed that familiar laugh one more time.

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