Instant Expert: The Replacements
You’ve seen them at parties, lurking in the corner, waiting to engage in battle disguised as conversation. They’re indie rock know-it-alls, and no matter what band or musician you mention, they’ve got an opinion — strong and almost certainly negative — ready to ram down your throat. With Instant Expert, we offer preparation for these very situations. Each Thursday, in advance of your weekend carousing, we pick an artist and provide a quickie career overview, highlighting both prevailing critical opinions and the inevitable contrarian counterarguments. Even if you’re completely unfamiliar with the music, you’ll be able to bluff your way through and defend your indie cred. This week: the Replacements.
Drawing equal inspiration from classic-rock bands like the Rolling Stones and punk groups like the Ramones, the Replacements came out of frigid Minneapolis like the only thing that mattered was, Where's the party and do they have free beer? They quickly gained a reputation for fast and loose shows, usually played under the influence of a couple of six-packs and with little regard to coherence. They were pegged as the Next Big Thing after the release of their third album, 'Let It Be,' but they sabotaged their career almost every step of the way, performing drunken sets of sloppy covers as the band's four members swapped instruments onstage. They got more serious as the '80s progressed, but by then it was too late. Soon after their final album -- 1990's 'All Shook Down' -- was released, the Replacements broke up.
'Let It Be,' from 1984, is the bridge between the band's early, sloppy punk past ('Gary's Got a Boner') and frontman Paul Westerberg's tortured-romantic future ('Unsatisfied'). It bristles with DIY energy and never sells itself short, not even on throwaway numbers like 'Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out.' 'Let It Be' is a college-rock landmark and one of the best albums to come out of the Amerindie scene of the '80s.
With 'Tim,' the band's major-label debut, and fourth album overall, Westerberg no longer hides behind the band's young, loud and bratty reputation. There are still a few rowdy guitar rockers to keep Bob Stinson happy, but most of the songs reflect Westerberg's growing disinterest in the band's disposable-punk past.
On their second album, 1983's 'Hootenanny,' Westerberg begins to sharpen his songwriting skills (check out 'Color Me Impressed'). But there's still plenty of punk-rock noise and goofing around.
They were at their best when they were fall-down, forget-the-words drunk.