The Hudson Guide to the Replacements

It all began with a photo leaked to a website. The surviving members of the Replacements (Paul Westerberg, Tommy Stinson, and Chris Mars), along with an unnamed fourth person (later revealed to be Vandals/A Perfect Circle drummer Josh Freese) posing together in what appeared to be a recent photo.
Thus a million rumors began. Supposedly there were plans for a surprise appearance at Coachella, followed by a full-fledged reunion album and tour. Some even speculated that the band would latch on to a Guns ‘n’ Roses reunion tour.
A few days later, the truth was revealed. There was a reunion of sorts, but there were no plans for a full album or tour. Rhino Records was preparing a 20-track greatest hits compilation (currently set for a June 13 release) comprising their tenure at both Twin Tone and Warner Brothers, and the band had reconciled to record two brand new songs for the project. Since Mars is no longer involved in music, he supplied backup vocals and Freese, who has toured and recorded with Westerberg in the past, provided drums.
The resulting tracks, “Message To the Boys” and “Pool and Dive”, pretend that 20 years have not passed since the band’s heyday. Both tracks would fit perfectly on either Tim or Pleased To Meet Me. “Message To the Boys” does “borrow” the riff from Westerberg’s first solo foray, “Waiting For Somebody”, but is propelled by a pure power pop chorus.
This compilation is just the beginning of a sort of “’mats-mania” planned for the next two years. The entire catalog is currently being remixed and remastered, with Tim and Pleased to Meet Me tentatively scheduled for a fall release. The remaining albums will be reissued next year, along with a box set that will be chock full of unreleased material and a DVD compiling television appearances and live clips.
With all that in mind, it seems like the perfect time to take a look back at arguably Minneapolis’ greatest rock ‘n’ roll band. A group that combined Stones-y raunch, Faces’ debauchery, and punk rock momentum with early ‘70’s AM-radio bubblegum pop. A group who’s commercial aspirations were derailed by self-destruction and drunken excess. A group that sounds as fresh today as it did in their mid-80’s heyday.

Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash (1981)

At first glance, these eighteen songs simply followed the usual loud/fast rules of the time. The song titles were simple; the music even more so. Yet Westerberg already had a knack for sensitive lyrics; at this point he just kept them buried behind a wall of sound.
Grade: B
Key Tracks: “I’m In Trouble”, “Shiftless When Idle”.

Stink EP (1982)

Late, great guitarist Bob Stinson is the star of this thrash-fest, as his guitar is turned up to a Spinal Tap-ish “11”. Eight songs in less than twenty minutes, performed primarily in triple-time speed. The only exception to this furious attack is “Go”, a British Invasion-ish ballad that finds Westerberg daring to show the world his insecurities.
Grade: B- (a half-grade penalty for brevity)
Key Tracks: “Kids Don’t Follow”, “Go”.

Hootenanny (1983)

The band’s third release finds them gaining more confidence in the studio. Elements of blues, power pop, folk, country, and straight-ahead rock were added to the mix, although the results are arguable a bit unfocused. Like the earlier releases, though, the band created tunes around every-day life, such as traffic lights (“Run It”), boring “trendinistas” (“Color Me Impressed”), and loneliness (“Within Your Reach”).
Grade: B
Key Tracks: “Color Me Impressed”, “Within Your Reach”.

Let It Be (1984)

The band’s first true classic album…and song. In a parallel universe, “I Will Dare” would have been the biggest song of the year. Instead, it’s the voice of a whole generation of bored and lonely young adults. Like Hootenanny, the album careens in and out of various genres and influences, yet it sticks together by simply oozing drunken belligerence. Sure, there’s plenty of silliness in songs such as “Gary’s Got a Boner” and “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out”, but these tunes are balanced by the harrowing loneliness of the glorious “Unsatisfied”.
Grade: A+
Key Tracks: “I Will Dare”, “Unsatisfied”, “Answering Machine”.

Tim (1985)

The guitars are toned down a bit on their major label debut, but this probably due more to the secret hearing problems of producer Tommy Erdelyi (aka Tommy Ramone) than any attempt to cross over to the mainstream. While the music is tempered just a tad, this is Westerberg’s songwriting masterpiece. All but a tune or two (“Lay It Down Clown” for one) are classics, from the pure pop of “Kiss Me On the Bus” to the anthems “Left of the Dial” and “Bastards of Young” before concluding with the masterful morning-after ballad, “Here Comes a Regular”. Hopefully, the remastered version set for release this fall will right the sonic wrongs of this release.
Grade: A
Key Tracks: “Left of the Dial”, “Little Mascara”, “Bastards of Young”, “Here Comes a Regular”.

Pleased to Meet Me (1987)

With Bob Stinson no longer in the band (dismissed due to, get this, heavy drinking), Westerberg played all the guitar parts in the first purely digital rock album. Marred perhaps by a bit of filler tunes, the best parts of this album are as indispensable as anything they’ve ever recorded. In fact, “Can’t Hardly Wait” may be an even better single than Let It Be’s “I Will Dare”. “Alex Chilton” probably sold more albums for it’s namesake than 20 years of recording and touring, and “I.O.U.” is the most ferocious rocker the band ever recorded.
Grade: A-
Key Tracks: “I.O.U.”, “Alex Chilton”, “Skyway”, “Can’t Hardly Wait”.

Don’t Tell a Soul (1989)

A blatant attempt to “play the game”, Don’t Tell a Soul purposely tempered the sound and ferocity of the band. Westerberg was writing less about everyday life; the songs were still sound but somehow less compelling. Most of the second half of the album smells like filler, although “I’ll Be You” was the closest thing to a real hit the band ever saw.
Grade: C+
Key Tracks: “Talent Show”, “Achin’ To Be”, “Darlin’ One”.

All Shook Down (1990)

The most underrated Replacements album started life as a Paul Westerberg solo project. When Warner Brothers refused to release it as such, the rest of the band made cameo appearances alongside noteworthy session musicians. While it never truly rocks as a true Replacements album should, the majority of the tunes are top-notch, reminiscent of middle-period Ray Davies.
Grade: B+
Key Tracks: “Merry Go Round”, “Nobody”, “Sadly Beautiful”.

All For Nothing/Nothing For All (1997)

While still a worthy collection, this double disc set could have been much better. Hampered by the inability to use any Twin Tone material, Warner Brothers insanely pulled four tracks off each of the albums the band recorded for the label. Great songs from Tim are inevitably excluded for so-so tracks from Don’t Tell a Soul, despite the fact that there was plenty of room on the disc for more material.
For collectors, however, there’s a second disc of b-sides, live cuts, and outtakes. Although collectors have in their possession plenty of outtakes that are superior to some of those included, this was a nice bone thrown to hard-core fans.
Grade: B
Key Previously Unreleased Tracks: “Can’t Hardly Wait (Tim Version)”, “Portland”, “Satellite”, “Another Girl, Another Planet”.


Anonymous said…
After Bob left, the 'Mats stunk — in an ironic twist, because "Stink" had Bob on it.

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