Listened to: MP3
Now, let me start off by saying I know nothing of The Replacements work. What attracts me to this album is the sheer ballsy-ness, the sheer audacity of naming their album “Let It Be”, simply to show that nothing is sacred, and The Beatles are just another band. These cats seem like true punk rock, in the sense of constantly spitting in the face of expectations, even within the punk scene. I mean, check this quote, their comments on how punks “thought that's what they were supposed to be standing for, like 'Anybody does what they want' and 'There are no rules' [...] But there were rules and you couldn't do that, and you had to be fast, and you had to wear black, and you couldn't wear a plaid shirt with flares ... So we'd play the DeFranco Family, that kind of shit, just to piss 'em off.”
So, without further ado, let’s kick off this album, and see if their talent lives up to their attitude, shall we? We open on “I Will Dare”, a song featuring Peter Buck of R.E.M. on guitar, a fun, poppy song that I can bet went over real well with their hardcore fan base. The song’s title is in reference to their attitude, said Paul Westerberg. “We'll dare to flop [. . .] We'll dare to do anything.” I find it almost hard to believe this is 80’s music, mainly because it’s so daring in it’s simplicity and fun. Indie ass-clowns, you’re welcome. From one track, it’s already obvious that without this album, you’d have nothing. It’s like an upbeat Cure, or a more melodic Echo and the Bunnymen. “Favorite Thing” comes even more alive, showing there’s still a bit of punk in these guys, rocking out on a track that feels like a more dance-friendly Clash. Paul Westerberg lets out this epic yell towards the end of this track, and if by time you get to that part, if you aren’t pogo-ing, you’ve lost your sense of fun.
“We’re Comin’ Out” is pure punk joy. Frenetic, fun, wailing screams, and instrumentals that seem to bridge the gap between The Stooges and The Walkmen. The mid-point drop out to the snaps, however, changes the whole game. Right when you’re getting into the heavy riffs, they trip you up and show they’re more than just riffs with names. The song is without a doubt one of the most structurally innovative songs of it’s day, simply for proving the versatility of punk. If X is 80’s punk purity, The Replacements used this album to prove punk’s maturity. “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out”’s drum part can’t not remind listeners of The Clash, and I mean that in the best way possible, especially with a guitar part that far exceeds anything I can remember from The Clash.
“Androgynous” feels more like a Roxy Music track than anything else on the album, but it’s kind of grimly jangly. Like a peppy Tom Waits, especially when you read the lyrics. We’re 5 tracks in, and I’m a Replacements fan, folks, especially after the off-key piano ending. “Black Diamond” totally changes the mood, with The Replacements doing their interpretation of a song by none other than Kiss. Yeah, ‘cause that seems like an obvious combination. Now, ya’ll know I’m a big Kiss fan (Jones Beach 2010, baby!) but let me tell you, these cats do a fantastic cover. There’s a real power to it, especially Westerberg’s howling vocals. Of course, right after a powerful track like that, they toy with us again, moving into a mellow guitar intro to “Unsatisfied”, with jangling guitars like Johnny Marr. After this track, I’m sold that Paul Westerberg is a genius. Listen to those gritty wails as he howls out “I’m so…unsatisfied!”.
We move into upbeat turf again with “Seen Your Video”, an instrumental track (until the last 30 seconds), a first for punk music I believe (I could be wrong), especially one that feels so authentically punk (ok, with a bit of 80’s jangling). You can’t deny the innovation these guys display, going from the Miles-Davis-Clash hybrid of “Seen Your Video” to the New York Dolls-esque “Gary’s Got A Boner”, a passion fueled pure punk track. “Sixteen Blue” might be my favorite track so far, just because it’s the kind of track I’d want to use in a movie. I visualize kids dancing at a prom, you know like how every TV show and Filmmaker pretends their prom played awesome music like this instead of “Umbrella”. Though does anybody else notice Paul sounds kind of like Tom Petty on this track?
The album ends on “Answering Machine”, a track on which the vocal production Paul sounds so Pixies-esque I know what I’m listening to next, and it has my favorite lyrics on the album. “How do you say I miss you to/An answering machine?/How do you say good night to/An answering machine?/How do you say I'm lonely to/An answering machine?” By the end, the repeating “If you need help…” proves these men are brilliant.
All in all, I could not have expected an album as strikingly brilliant as this. This may be one of the golden calves of the Pitchfork.com set, but unlike some of their other “classics”, I totally dig this. #239 is far too low a number for something a sharp, exciting and diverse as this album, and it’s certainly worth not just one, but multiple listens.
Next up, we tackle #131: Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack, mostly by The BeeGees. See you there, whenever that is.