Friday, 12 May 2006
The Replacements are one of those great undiscovered rock bands. In a parallel universe they would have been bigger than Bon Jovi and Guns 'n' Roses. Instead, they have a cult following with a small fanbase who simply adore them.
Led by the charismatic Paul Westerberg, they released 7 albums in their 13 year reign from 1979 to 1991. Their widely-accepted career peak ran from 1984 to 1987 where they released their holy trilogy: Let it be, Tim and Pleased to meet me. Most of their other albums had moments of brilliance, but none were quite as good as those 3 albums.
Unfortunately, even the albums that made up that trilogy had their fair share of filler on them. I'm of the school of thought that the 'Mats (as they are affectionately known to their fans) never released a completely solid album. And while this is incredibly disappointing for me (being such a fan of the album format), they have left such an unforgettable legacy in their songs that you can't help but forgive the lads. In a way, it's all part of their charm -- you can't hold it against them for deciding to include a throwaway song like Gary's got a boner in amongst timeless tunes like Unsatisfied and Sixteen blue.
They played by their own rules, and they were all the better for it. Their film clip for Bastards of young was a black and white clip of a stereo playing the tune. Yes, you read that right. A still image of a stereo. Can you imagine any band getting away with that in the current era of cliched film clips, where record companies care more about style and image over musical substance? It just wouldn't happen anymore. Bands are simply brands nowadays, investments to record company shareholders. If they don't earn the moolah, they are sent on their merry way. The Replacements were a band who were clearly marketable, but they simply refused to let the possibility of worldwide success get in the way of their artistic vision. They kept it real throughout their whole career, and it paid off because they left us with a legacy of passionately real rock music. They are the antithesis of over-produced record company darlings like Creed, Nickleback and their ilk.
But there's more to these guys than just the music. Paul Westerberg is also the master of the witty lyric, and he has written many couplets that would make other lyrical geniuses like Elvis Costello proud. Here's a quote from Bastards of young from Tim:
The ones who love us best are the ones we’ll lay to rest
And visit their graves on holidays at best
The ones who love us least are the ones we’ll die to please
If it’s any consolation, I don’t begin to understand them
Who can seriously say they cannot relate to this? How many times have you tried ever so hard to please someone that you have absolutely no respect for? Meanwhile neglecting those that you love, because you know (or at least you hope) they will always be there for you? Westerberg is up there with Tom Waits as one of the few real conveyors of human emotion through lyric.
I have recently come to the conclusion that the 'Mats are almost the ultimate mixtape band. As I said, they never released a masterpiece of an album. But they have so many brilliant songs tucked away on all of their albums that these songs need to be taken out of context and listened to as the microcosms of pop/rock perfection that they are. They are the first band that has inspired me to create and arrange a playlist on my iPod of their best moments.
Here's some of my favourite Replacements songs, one from each of their "career peak" albums. I think these songs cover a wide range of styles; Unsatisfied is emotion-driven rock at its finest (long before the unfortunate marketing term emo became overused), the aforementioned Bastards of young is one of their finest rock anthems and Skyway is an acoustic guitar standard that is almost unbearable in its beauty. I hope you enjoy them, and I hope it's the beginning of your love affair with the 'Mats.
The Replacements - Unsatisfied [Link Removed]
The Replacements - Bastards of young [Link Removed]
The Replacements - Skyway [Link Removed]
Let me know what you think!
UPDATE: Due to popular demand, AAC files have been replaced with MP3 ones. So you should now be able to listen to them through WinAmp, Media Player or whatever else you want to use. They will stay up for another week.
UPDATE: Song links removed.