Album Reviews

Bash & Pop: Friday Night Is Killing Me (Omnivore Recordings)

The legend goes something like this: during a low point on his band The Replacements’ disastrous European tour, guitarist Tommy Stinson wandered onto the stage, and began singing a song about the frustrations of being in a band, one with the chorus declaring that “Friday night is killing me.” It was on that stage that night that Stinson—who had always enjoyed his role on the stage without being the spotlight—decided that he might want to be a frontman himself. Thus was born Bash & Pop.

Stinson, a reluctant musician, hadn’t sought the glory of the spotlight; indeed, his band The Replacements only recorded and released one of his songs, “Satellite,” and even then, it only appeared as a b-side to a highly limited promotional release. But it was enough to convince Sire Records to invest in him, and it was a wise decision, as Friday Night Is Killing Me is as fine a record as any they released that year, eleven tracks of simple, no-frills rock and roll that felt almost minimalist compared to the music of the era.

Indeed, in an era where “alternative rock” and “grunge” were overwhelming the airwaves with music that was heavy, emotional, and occasionally overwrought, Bash & Pop felt like a throwback: simple, straightforward rock and roll that eschewed heaviness and pomposity; this was the sound of a band who sounded as if they’d be content just bashing their songs out in its garage and in the local bar. Occasionally they’d throw in a little bit of raunchy crunch (“Hang Ups,” “Fast & Hard”), mix in a little more heartfelt rock (“Tiny Pieces,” “Nothing,” “First Steps”), and even going for broke with a blast of pure rock and roll (“Never Aim To Please,” “Making Me Sick,”). If Friday Night proved anything, it was that Tommy Stinson was an amazingly adept songwriter whose talents had gone unrecognized.

Friday Night Is Killing Me is a very focused, very tight rock album from beginning to end, one that was meant to be enjoyed on the merits of its very unpretentious songs. It’s a testament to Stinson’s singular vision for his songs that the bonus disc of alternate versions and home demos doesn’t really add anything to the main album, not for lack of quality—but because the songs were already so fully formed when Stinson wrote them that they don’t sound radically different from the versions that were released; in fact, one might not even really notice the difference between the various versions.

But Bash & Pop would be short-lived. After a handful of tours, the band would split up, and Stinson would soon launch another group, Perfect. Unfortunately, the band would languish in obscurity and the record deal promised him would soon sour, resulting in their sole album being shelved for nearly a decade. Fed up with the frustrations that went with the job, Stinson decided he’d rather be in a band than lead a band, and wound up joining Guns “N Roses for several years, casually releasing two low-key solo albums in the interim, until last year when he reformed Bash & Pop and released a killer follow-up, Anything Could Happen. Twenty-four years on, Friday Night Is Killing Me still sounds like the impressive, exciting, and flat-out enjoyable rock record that it is.

 

Friday Night Is Killing Me is available via Omnivore Recordings.

 

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