BEST OLD BAND (2001)
Bob Stinson never released an album after the Replacements showed him the door in 1986--not with the Bleeding Hearts, not with Sonny Vincent, not with Dog 994. If this trash-punk guitar virtuoso had a way of making fellow musicians feel like it was him and them against the world, most friends also got the impression that the world was winning. "We were always saying it would be a dream come true to kidnap Bob, bring him to an island to clean up, and then record the ultimate rock album," writes singer Ray Reigstad in the liner notes of Stinson Blvd. (Rock X Change Music). Though recorded in 1989 and 1990 by Stinson's "art blues" outfit Static Taxi, the album went unreleased until last year, half a decade after his death. Today, Static Taxi stands as perhaps the best snapshot of Stinson's genius out of the shadow of the 'Mats. The band found its sound inside a kerosene-heated train car in 1989, where four guys--Stinson with some art-school punks and cabbies--gathered to drink, jam, drop LSD, and record demos. By 1991 they had put to tape an album's worth of studio material before promptly folding, never having recovered from the loss of their beloved boxcar the year before, when a nearby warehouse burned down. Since Stinson's final drug spiral, it has been hard to romanticize that period; former Replacements road manager and 400 Bar owner Bill Sullivan admits that he hasn't even listened to Static Taxi's album. But these songs were worth resurrecting for more than nostalgia or the opportunity to mourn. For one thing, they help clarify just how much Replacements classics such as "Answering Machine" were duets rather than Paul Westerberg vehicles: The lyrical ache of the cascading guitar shimmer on Static Taxi's "Modern Joy" is enough to make you weep. Elsewhere Stinson's springtime-sludge textures elevate Ray Reigstad's snotty choruses and jumpy rhythms to the level of great gonzoid power-pop. There was chemistry amid the chemicals of that train car, and one only wishes that a locomotive could have carried it off to that island Reigstad was dreaming about.