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Closer 2 Normal

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Album Review

Characteristically, the late Bob Stinson didn't stay long in one place after the Replacements canned him in 1986. His primary exposure thereafter came from gigging with assorted Minneapolis bands, although recording them proved elusive in his lifetime — except for sideman appearances with Model Prisoner and Shotgun Rationale, two bands fronted by New York roots-punk musician Sonny Vincent. Ironically, Stinson's best-known and most durable post-'Mats combo, Static Taxi, never released any official recordings until singer Ray Reigstad and drummer John Reipas assembled Stinson Boulevard after the guitarist's death. Closer 2 Normal continues this documentation process with five tracks from the earlier release. "FAFA," in particular, flashes the trash-punk rancor that often fueled Stinson's playing, while "Cocaine Couples" wouldn't have sounded out of place in the Sorry Ma... or Stink-era 'Mats days. But the band had tricks aplenty up its sleeve: "Max Factor" teases with a "Bastards of Young"-style lick, then dramatically downshifts its tempo. Several tracks effectively use that device to build a mood, especially "We Do," which wearily summarizes the lot of the cabbie with a chorus of pure pop-punk snarkiness: "Stop the car," we're told, "you're pissing me off again." On other fronts, the somber balladry of "Mr. Blu" and "Cop Tape" lend an emotional resonance not often associated with Stinson. Of the previously unreleased tracks, "Cop Tape" is the most powerful; in it, a sparse arrangement and pounding tempo sweep along Reigstad's lyrics of a city resident swallowed by urban violence (in a theme reminiscent of the Clash's "Somebody Got Murdered"). Had Static Taxi hooked up with a decent indie label co-conspirator, the band might have weathered its internal stresses. In any case, anyone who dismissed Stinson as some abrasive, unmelodic clown definitely has a rude surprise coming (and needs to hear this album).

Closer 2 Normal, Static Taxi
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