In the old, pre streaming, pre internet days of listening to music, one of the most consistently reliable way to discover new, great music was to read the liner notes inside album covers from the bands I already loved. Listening to a CD for the first time, while flicking through booklet that came with it, I wouldn’t read the lyrics first. I’d go straight to the back to see what other bands got shout outs in the thank you section. But now, lack of physical media means I rarely see that. But the theory is still the same. Whenever I see a musician I love talking about bands they love, I always seek them out.
I knew who The Replacements were before reading this interview on Soundcheck. And I’d listened to an album or two here and there, even reviewing one here on Bored and Dangerous. But it was this endorsement from Craig Finn of The Hold Steady, that made me decide I needed to listen to more. As Finn tells it, “Growing up in Minneapolis, Minnesota… hometown heroes The Replacements illustrated for him what rock music could be about. ‘I never knew anyone who looked like Steven Tyler from Aerosmith,’ says Finn. ‘But I knew a lot of guys who looked like [Replacements lead singer] Paul Westerberg. So when I saw The Replacements for the first time, I thought ‘Oh my god, I can do this.'”
So here I go, on Finn’s recommendation, I listened to The Replacements once again, this time with Tim.
With guitar, bass, drums and vocals all kicking in with the very first beat of the opening song, Hold My Life has an immediate and infectious energy. Almost like The Replacements wanted to start this record at full tilt. Not that’s it’s particularly loud or in your face. It’s just urgent in a way that sounds like a band who can’t wait a single second for us to hear what they’ve been working on.
Rock and roll’s defacto parents both get a run on I’ll Buy, built on a combination of country sounds and 12 bar blues structure. There’s a hint of 50s rock and roll, all dragged into the 80s with Paul Westerberg’s punk rock growl. That same growl takes what could have been a pretty standard guitar pop song, and gives it more of an edge with Kiss Me on the Bus.
Delivering on its name, Dose of Thunder is some overblown, studio polished, 80s cock rock bombast. And it’s surprising how well it works, coming from a band that I think of as more indie and jangled, than fuzzed out swagger. But they actually pull it off. Before Tim gets back into the country influence with the acoustic Waitress in the Sky.
While there have been plenty of examples of Westerberg’s ear for pop melodies and memorable hooks before this song, Bastards of Young really is the best example. It’s tight and box ticking, while still having the undeniable rock and roll legitimacy. Then the 12 bar blues structure of earlier returns, this time with a punk rock twist on Lay it Down Clown.
The closing pair ease Tim out, with the guitar pop of Little Mascara and the acoustic lament of Here Comes the Regular. And by this stage, the record has gone through so many variations in tone and guitar based genres, that they’re an eclectic bow on a nice eclectic mess. I never expected so much versatility from The Replacements. And I never expect this much versatility executed so well from any band.