Tommy Stinson

Village Gorilla Head

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While the following suggestion certainly sounds far more ominous than intended, one gets the feeling that hanging out with Axl Rose has started to rub off on Tommy Stinson. The former Replacements bassist has been a member of the Chinese Democracy-era edition of Guns N' Roses for a few years at this writing, and just as Rose seems oddly intent upon beating all the rock & roll fun out of his brave new version of G n' R, Stinson's first proper solo album, Village Gorilla Head, is significantly short on the rave-up excitement and loopy enthusiasm of his earlier sets with Bash & Pop and Perfect. Which isn't to say that Stinson has completely lost his sense of humor or his inclinations toward straight-ahead rock & roll -- just check out the Stones-style raunch of "Motivation" and "Something's Wrong," the ace Ronnie Lane lift of "Hey You," and the onslaught of attitudinal snot of "Bite Your Tongue" and you'll get some much needed reassurance about the state of Stinson's abilities. But the electro-processed spookiness of "Without a View" and the title track suggest he's been listening to trip hop without really figuring how to do it himself, "Couldn't Wait" is blunt hard rock lacking in both hooks and swing, and most of the cuts on this album lack a much-needed élan -- the songs are solid, the playing is great, but there's a certain sweat-inducing passion that's in unfortunately short supply. There's just enough good stuff on Village Gorilla Head to remind listeners of the scruffy kid with the flawless rock instincts they knew as Tommy Stinson, but at the same time there's a bunch of stuff suggesting that maturity and a more serious outlook are taking a toll upon him. Here's some advice: less Guns N' Roses, more Minus 5 in your musical diet, Tommy.

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