[3 November 2004]
Tommy Stinson has been playing professionally for 25 years now, and he’s not yet 39 and holding. That’s saying a hell of a lot even for today’s standards. First there was the Replacements with Paul Westerberg and his late brother Bob involved. Then came his brief but beautiful phase as Bash & Pop before Axl decided that Guns N’ Roses needed his services to, well, sit around and spend years perfecting Chinese Democracy. And although Rose nixed the idea of Westerberg and Stinson teaming up for a tour that would’ve completed the jaunt the late Buddy Holly was on when he died, Stinson has been able to do his own thing from time to time thankfully. Touring most of North America this past summer meant that he had a couple of releases, including a solo album and another one with Perfect. For those in the know, think Bash & Pop II.
Stinson shares vocal duties in Perfect with guitarist Marc Solomon while Dave Phillips rounds out the guitars. “Better Days” is not quite the power pop or post-punk sound of current bands but something that could’ve come out of a 1986 vault. The 4/4 drumming works great with Stinson’s simple but ascending and descending bass line. It’s the guitars that drive the song along in a vein that is either the Mats or the Cure on high speed dubbing. “I miss your face, I miss your eyes”, Stinson yelps as the airtight but contagious chorus kicks in. The guitar solo isn’t the strongest part, but the middle eight keeps it from falling apart. Unfortunately, it dies a slow and uninspired death when it could’ve rocked out a lot more. Nonetheless, the strong, sugar-coated jangle of “Turn It Up” is nailed from the get-go, with a head-bobbing, limb-moving summer-driving song that cruises and bends into each turn. A hint of Elvis Costello and Steve Nieve inspiration can be heard in one of the verses as well, which is never a bad choice.
Stinson has never been one to shy away from what made him so damn likable in the first place: straight ahead rock and roll with Petty-like melodies. This is quite evident on the high octane “Little Drum” with the usual but enjoyable harmonies chiming in at the end of each lyric. Ditto for “7 Days a Week”, which doesn’t invent anything on the rock n’ roll wheel but basically gives it a spit polish. Although it’s still a fine tune, it takes a breather somewhat compared to the previous track. Think of the slower moments of the Replacements’ Don’t Tell a Soul or All Shook Down and you should get the idea. “Me” is somewhere between the previous two tracks, although again it brings to mind Petty circa Damn the Torpedoes, with the guitars not driving the tune but the catchy sing-along chorus the catalyst.
Generally, Stinson keeps things flowing throughout, especially on the crunchy and beefy “Catch ‘Em”, resembling Weezer minus the adorable muppets. This isn’t an adventurous tune but just one that tends to stick to your ribs. The clunker comes with “Yap Yap”, which is something that rhymes with “Yap Yap”. Here, Perfect are far from it as a punk-meets-rockabilly arrangement makes it for a forgettable listen when there are dozens of bands out there that do it better. Perfect return to near perfection on “Making of an Asshole” that recalls Bash & Pop’s “Never Aim to Please” if performed at half the pace before the hi-hat finale. “Flap” wraps it all up in a package that isn’t Perfect, but 33 minutes that are mighty close to it. File under: “Why the hell can’t you let Tommy and Paul get back together Axl, you fool?”
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/perfect-oncetwice/