Released under Westerberg’s alter ego Grandpaboy, Mono was originally released as a stand alone limited edition album, but it’s more commonly found in a double pack with Stereo. The engineering (Stereo is recorded in stereo, and Mono is recorded in mono) isn’t the only thing that differentiates these records; while Stereo reflected the more affecting side of Westerberg found in Replacements songs like ‘Here Comes A Regular’, Mono is Westerberg’s take on the swaggering rock and roll side of the ‘Mats, more akin to songs like ‘Gary’s Got A Boner’.
While it was the juxtaposition of these two facets that made The Replacements special, they’re also perfectly effective separated into two separate albums like this. At less than half an hour, and not taking itself particularly seriously, Mono isn’t necessarily the most essential piece in Westerberg’s oeuvre, but it’s fun. Grandpaboy’s backup band includes Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson, performing under the name of Zeke Pine. Sometimes there’s little more than a catchy riff and a catch phrase, like ‘Knock It Right Out’ or ‘Kickin’ The Stall’, but even these don’t outstay their welcome. There’s melodic and more emotionally complex material like ‘I’ll Do Anything’ and the snappy ‘Eyes Like Sparks’ (“and my heart like gasoline”). Opener ‘High Time’ sets the tone perfectly with great guitar work and a tone of optimism, while closer ‘AAA’ is surprisingly pretty with its tender support vocals.
Mono may be short on ambition and on diversity, but it achieves its aims perfectly; it’s a record with almost no slow spots, and in combination with Stereo it’s Westerberg’s best work of the 21st century.