Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday 80s Flashback for June 14, 2013

[The 'Mats are Back!] -- This week I heard some news that made me cautiously optimistic about the state of music: the surviving members of the Replacements will perform together on stage for the first time since July 4, 1991. For those who don't know -- or, perhaps, don't remember -- The Replacements formed in Minneapolis in the late 70s. According to drummer Chris Mars, the band's name reflected their sense of a secondary status: "Like maybe the main act doesn't show, and instead the crowd has to settle for an earful of us dirtbags" [Azerrad, Michael. Our Band Could Be Your Life. 2001. p. 199]. They were never commercially successful, but they did receive critical accolades and have been cited as a major influence for many bands.

The Replacements (or, simply, The 'Mats to their fans) are probably my favorite of what I call the "sloppy" American rock & roll bands. Their sound was informed by a combination of the arena blues-rock of their collective youth and the post-punk that was in vogue when they took up their own instruments. Now, they never achieved a high level of proficiency as musicians during their time together, but they did evolve from garden variety garage band to a genuinely tight if oft-times shabby outfit. Their songs touched upon the pains of growing up, hating your job, and relationship issues, and they did so in their own loud but tuneful manner. I've chosen a few songs from their 12+ year career. I hope they are among the setlist for Riot Fest Chicago. Read and hear more after the break. And if you're interested, you can download a copy of the Replacements' last show in Philadelphia, played July 28, 1987.

Flashback #1"I gotta hide, I gotta run | Try suicide, well that ain't no fun."

The first and only single off the Replacements' debut album, Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash (1981), was "I'm in Trouble." You may not think it offers any indication of the greatness that was to come, but you cannot deny its energy and enthusiasm. Or, maybe enthusiasm is the wrong word.

Flashback #2"And the ones that love us least  |  are the ones we'll try to please  |  If it's any consolation, I don't begin to understand."

If any one band of the 80s could capture the combination of angst, rebellion, and skewed self-image that accompanied most students as they navigated their college years, The Replacements would be that band. The Mats were a drunken revelation with their self-deprecating lyrics and brusing live shows. Our second flashback of the day is lifted from their 1985 release, Tim, which ranks on Rolling Stone's 2003 list of the greatest 500 albums of all time and sits at #4 on the Alternative Press list of the top 99 albums of 1985-1995. But even with all the advance and critical praise Tim received, it barely cracked Billboard Music's top 200. "Bastards of Young" is a swaggering, jangled and nearly abusive ode to the struggles of working class Americans. College students, at least those who had to keep their grades up while working to pay for their books and education, took it as their anthem as well. If you've never heard this tune, it's high time we complete your, um, education.

Flashback #3"Jesus rides beside me | And never buys any smokes."

The Replacements' fifth studio album, Pleased to Meet Me (1987), found the band holding strong to their identity while dabbling in other genres such as soul and cocktail jazz. Memphis style horns make their first appearance on a Replacements' record. Even the cover artwork shows the band recognizing their own transition from punks to musicians. Nowhere is this ethos more evident than on this album's first single, and our third Flashback, "Can't Hardly Wait."

Flashback #4"If no one's on your canvas | Then I'm achin' to be." 

The Replacements made a huge stylistic change on their next studio album, Don't Tell a Soul. This record was released in 1989 and initially alienated a few of the band's hardcore fans ("What? A ballad on a Mats' record? Noooooo!"), but it also helped them to continue forging ahead. Our bonus Flashback, "Achin' To Be," is probably the best example of how different the band had become in 10 years. And if nothing else, the song is an aural testament to lyricist/vocalist Paul Westerberg's growth as a person and a performer.

Yes, I usually say the rule of three applies when doing Flashbacks. But I missed posting a new Flashback last week and ... well, it's the Replacements, man! Until next week, dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the archives. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.

And if you are on Twitter, and feel so inclined, please +K my influence in Music on @klout.

I'll see you in seven!

UPDATE 8/26/2021: Had to embed new YouTube links for "I'm In Trouble" and "Can't Hardly Wait." The previously linked videos were no longer available.

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