There is something unmistakable about that chugging electric guitar and that voice —Paul Westerberg’s personality manages to transcend whatever project he’s working on and become untethered from time. The twist this time around, though, is that the Replacements frontman not only sounds re-energized, but downright happy.
A lot of that contentedness seems to be the result of his new partnership with Juliana Hatfield, who makes up the other half of his new project the I Don’t Cares. Many of the songs on their new album, Wild Stab, could be classified as love songs, with titles like “Kissing Break,” Hands Together,” and “Love Out Loud.” And try as they might to prove to the listener that they didn’t put much thought into this project — the vibe is muddy and slapdash, and much of it sounds like it was pieced together from ramshackle of basement recordings — it’s pretty clear that Westerberg and Hatfield do care about this project, perhaps more than they’ve cared about any of their endeavors in quite some time.
What we’re left with is a giddy, messy, lo-fi, and deceptively sparkly little album (actually not so little, with 16 tracks); a collection of well-worn pop songs dressed down in tattered clothes and dusty smirks; a cautious sense of optimism piled under heaps of shakers and tambourines. Listen to “Born for Me” and try not to smile at the sheer glee of it.
“Making this music, that elusive ‘never done this before’ feeling permeated the little room more than once, and it was very welcome,” the I Don’t Cares tell us in their album’s liner notes. As listeners, it’s welcome for us, too.
And here is the cover art for the new album: