Sunday, April 02, 2017
RECORD OF THE DAY: THE REPLACEMENTS - LET IT BE
I first purchased this album - The Replacements' 'breakout' disc from 1984, Let It Be - on the compact disk format in the year 1990. I was 18 years of age, and bought it from the Gaslight Music store which was situated on campus at Melbourne Uni at the time. That's probably not important to you, but for me it gives it context. When I was 15, a school friend - one of the only humans in the entire school who was also into punk rock - gave me a copy of the Replacements' Tim on cassette, and it became a real favourite, even though I was somewhat hesitant to hail the band as something truly great in the way I would, say, Flipper or Minor Threat. In my hardarsedness, I saw the band as too much of a musical half-measure to fully endorse, and relegated them to some sort of subdivision of 'a band who made some records I like, but whom I can't fully get behind'. Whatever the fuck that means.
Years later, I went backwards and discovered the genius of the band's earlier efforts, specifically the debut, Sorry Ma I Forgot To Take Out The Trash and the followup, Hootenanny, both of which rate as early '80s suburban trash-bag/drunk-punk classics and saw the band perfecting a midwestern take on the New York Dolls/Sex Pistols sound with a dollop of hardcore and a bit of whatever was in the water in Minneapolis at the time (ie. there's a bit of Huskers in early Replacements, and vice versa). Tim was the band's major label debut, released on Sire in 1985, and despite the slightly anemic production c/o Tommy 'Ramone' Erdelyi, for me it contains their best songs from start to finish. All of their first four full-lengthers are pretty close to perfection, and Let It Be is exactly that. Which means there's a couple of tracks here which are less than perfection: a clunky take on Kiss's 'Black Diamond' (the band rarely ever recorded covers, and why they'd pick a fairly terrible Kiss song remains a mystery to me), and 'Tommy Gets His Tonsils' and 'Gary's Got A Boner', whilst perfectly acceptable snotbag teen-punk affairs, don't fit in well with the more 'mature' new approach of the band or the record they're on.
Of course, you could argue that the newer, more mature approach of the band saw them getting old(er) and boring, but I'd argue they didn't get that way until after 1987's Please To Meet Me (not a record which particularly thrills me, but it still has a spark). Anyway, the rest of the album - tracks like 'Androgynous', 'Seen Your Video', 'Sixteen Blue', 'Satisfied' et al - basically the rest of it - have stuck in my craw for a good 27 years now, never to be dislodged. 1984 was the breakout year for underground rock in Reagan's Amerika, according to some - please refer to Meat Puppets' II, Double Nickels On The Dime, Zen Arcade and the slew of Black Flag material from that same year - and Let It Be, whilst not the total epiphany of any of the previosuly mentioned, is a disc everyone should wrap their ears around at least a dozen or two times. I fully endorse it, and everything the Replacements did during the first half of the '80s.