Essential New Music: Bash & Pop’s “Friday Night Is Killing Me”

Apparently, Tommy Stinson fancied himself a songwriter—just not under the auspices of his cantankerous Replacements CEO. So when a frustrated Paul Westerberg cut out unexpectedly early during a poorly attended European show on the band’s funereal All Shook Down tour in 1991, Stinson threw down his bass, headed back onstage and strapped on Westerberg’s guitar. The song he performed, “Friday Night Is Killing Me,” became the title track and deserving centerpiece for his 1993 post-Mats debut as the leader of Bash & Pop. With next to zero support from Warner Bros., the album stiffed—and that’s a damn shame because it remains the best batch of songs by any Replacement since 1987’s Pleased To Meet Me. Like its title track, Friday Night’s overall vibe is cathartically autobiographical. “I was just 13, and my head was learning as my heart was racing/And I sold myself for next to nothing,” sings Stinson on “Fast And Hard,” hammering out a relentless bottom end with the help of late-period Mats drummer Steve Foley and his brother, Kevin. A magnificent tension is achieved when Stinson’s streamlined songwriting runs headlong into Bash & Pop’s burly swagger, which recalls the Faces and, more recently, Keith Richards’ X-Pensive Winos. And you might argue that Stinson—with his reedy, personable rasp—is the Richards to Westerberg’s Jagger. Don Smith’s production is punchy but unobtrusive. Hooks come in bunches, and Stinson’s ear for a sophisticated melody amid the well-orchestrated chaos is impeccable throughout. That makes “Tiny Pieces” the best hit single that never was, its nimble guitar line impossible to shake. On slapdash leadoff “Never Aim To Please,” Stinson snarls, “I shoot at nothing, gaining nothing’s all I do.” Given the overwhelming evidence here, his aim was spot on.

Hobart Rowland