Paul Westerberg & Juliana Hatfield take a “Wild Stab”
All good things must come to an end. As a fan, this is what I tell myself in the wake of the second break-up of The Replacements after a three-year (2012-2015) reunion that spawned an EP (Songs for Slim) and a modest amount of celebrated live performances. I wasn’t old enough to follow the band during their ‘80’s romp, or listen to them dissolve in 1991. When The Replacements first broke-up in ’91, it was following an album that many feel was more of front-man Paul Westerberg’s first solo record than a finale by The Replacements. It’s easy to make that claim—the record certainly set the tone for Westerberg’s charming 1993 debut 14 Songs.
For fans of The Mats — a nickname for The Replacements — this second heartbreak is once again eased by the sloppy tenderness of Paul Westerberg’s songwriting sensibility. This time he’s enlisted the partnership of fellow alternative rock lifer Juliana Hatfield.
Hatfield, an indie pop veteran from Maine, has several notable career accolades. She’s chalked up credits with The Lemonheads, Blake Babies and her own project The Juliana Hatfield Three. She’s also one half of Minor Alps — a successful collaboration with Matthew Caws of Nada Surf.
Together — in the vein of the Westerberg disposition — they’re calling themselves The I Don’t Cares and they’ve appropriately titled their record Wild Stab, which is exactly what they’re taking. If you’re a fan of Westerberg’s solo work, this album will strike a comfortable chord. Right out of the gate it apprehends the aforementioned tender, yet rough-around-the-edges songwriting that Paul has churned out for more than 20 years.
Much credit is due to Hatfield, too. Her contributions add something vital to the resurgence of his template: a layer of gentle vocalization and the experienced need and ability to turn up the amps and make some noise, netted by just the right amount of analogous sensitivity.
The record is balanced with a playful mixture of salty and sweet. Westerberg must be a hopeless romantic; for years he’s produced gritty, quintessential ‘90’s-esque rock (even long after the ‘90s concluded), that's paired with beautiful, heartfelt, and often times self-deprecating love-letters set to music. His albums are comparable to the romantic comedy that you have no shame admitting an adoration for, because it satisfies a unique contrast.
Wild Stab is proof that even in the modern landscape of music, with so many emerging and converging genres, a simple yet effective mold need not be ignored. This record will make you dance, play air-guitar, and smile warmly with its bundle of songs penned genuinely from a hardened, but still beating heart.