Friday, 1 March 2013

The World Is a Better Place With The Replacements Around






I was late to The Replacements. Very late. Eighteen years after the fact, to be exact.

Sure, I was aware of their existence due to, among other things, occasional viewings of the black and white "Bastards of Young" video on late night television, or the fairly regular mentions and shout-outs from various artists I admired regarding the band’s massive influence. There were also countless articles and stories on this debauched group of young, drunken scallywags. For whatever reason, though, they did not actually have my full attention until the day I received an unlikely wakeup call courtesy of a guy by the name of Greg Mottola...

In 2009, two years after directing Superbad (a film that single handily reinvigorated my love of the teen comedy genre), Mottola unleashed his next cinematic gem onto the movie-going public, a little film called Adventureland.

Adventureland was more personal a film than Superbad; you could tell Mottola knew these characters: the employees of the theme park, in which a majority of the film takes place, were, no doubt at one time, his co-workers, the experiences were his experiences, the music these character's enjoyed was the music he enjoyed.

Ah, yes. The music.




Look, I'm just gonna come out and say it - Adventureland has, without a doubt, one of the best goddamn soundtracks I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. Not only did I fall immediately for the characters and the movie in which they are contained, I was also hopelessly in love with the great collection of tunes featured throughout, which included (among others) Husker Du, Lou Reed, and of course, The Replacements, whose unbeatable "Bastards of Young" opens the film.

I recognised the song immediately, though at that point my familiarity with it may have had more to do with seeing Against Me! performing a killer version on their Live At The Key Club DVD, than with seeing the original black and white clip in my youth.

A little further into the film, Jessie Eisenberg's character James compliments Kristen Stewart's "Em" on her record collection ("Replacements, cool”). That brief throwaway line stuck in my mind, as did a scene toward the end of the film featuring Eisenberg staring out through the rainy windows of a bus destined for New York, while another Replacements tune, "Unsatisfied", plays over the visuals.

Immediately after my first viewing of the film, I took off to rabidly hunt down the very awesome soundtrack. Sadly, my long, persistent search through the city's many music stores did not prove successful. However, during my last stop at the usually reliably Rocking Horse Records, I came across a name that caught my attention: The Replacements. The CD in question was their greatest hits collection, Don't You Know Who I Think I Was? (which could not have been a better entry point to the band). And for under ten bucks! Jackpot!

A couple of hours later, I hit play while reading though the CD booklet, which contained not only a brief history of the band, (including their early days as Dogbreath), but also insightful details on each of the albums, stories of the notorious drinking, and references to shows (both good and bad), all of which painted a vivid picture of a band truly like no other.

The remarkable thing for me about this collection of amazing tunes was that there didn't appear to be any significant drop off in quality as I made my way through the chronologically sequenced tracks (unlike many other career-spanning greatest hits compilations). To my ears, from the first song to the last, it was perfection. There were certainly changes, sound-wise, but it was all good, positive progression. The compilation was even topped off with two new tracks, specifically recorded for inclusion on the set, both of which remarkably kept the quality levels as high as what had come before. One listen in, I was dedicated, devoted, and obsessed. I needed every single thing this great band had ever put to tape, and I needed it yesterday!

While it was somewhat maddening to me that I had taken so long to catch on to the complete and utter awesomeness that is The Replacements (or The ‘Mats, as they are affectionately known to their die hard fans)  I guess  I was meant to find them at the point in my life that I did. Given the reissues that were released around the same time, it wasn’t exactly the worst timing in the world.

The first albums I got my hands on (based purely on availability) were Tim (the highly-praised, Tommy Ramone-produced 4th LP) and Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash (their mighty debut). I listened in that order, effectively starting Mid-career, then heading right back to the beginning.

Next I rounded up Let It Be (the 3rd LP and quite possibly the BEST.ALBUM.EVER.), followed by Stink (EP), and Pleased to Meet Me. Soon enough, the collection was complete.




Midway through all this, I knew I had found my new (old) favourite band.  There was a magical combination of music, attitude and personality within the music like no other. They were, by all accounts, a completely unpredictable quartet who were, on any given night, too drunk to play a note, or, alternatively, sober enough to pull off a completely life-changing show.

Luckily for late-starters like myself, this stuff has been well documented, whether it be from Michael Azerrad's This Band Could Be Your Life, Jim Walsh’s All Over But The Shouting, or Gorman Bechard's great documentary Color Me Obsessed, which, like the band itself, stands out from the crowd due to being defiantly different (in this particular case, containing no band member interviews or music, just first-hand accounts from fans, critics and admirers).




In the time since my first proper exposure to the band, rumours have surfaced here and there regarding potential reunions (including a possible Coachella performance in 2011 that, of course, never eventuated). However, the band have always played coy regarding such claims. Members have either been too focused on Solo Material (Paul & Tommy) busy playing in a lesser band (Tommy again) or have moved on from the music industry completely (Chris – now an amazing artist). Then there’s Bob, who sadly shuffled off this mortal coil back in '95.

Flashing forward to 2012, and through not very ideal circumstances, rumours slowly became reality, and, almost out of the blue, a reunion of sorts finally came to be, though not under ideal circumstances: Slim Dunlap (The Replacements post-Bob guitarist) sadly suffered a debilitating stroke that resulted in ongoing medical expenses.  It was decided that, in order to raise the money needed to cover these costs, the guys would reform (at least in the studio) to record an EP of covers, with all proceeds to go toward helping out their former band mate. Thus, the Songs For Slim project was born...




That brings us to right now, the eve of the EP's release. I can only imagine what the wait has been like for those who were with them from the beginning...

If you require any proof at all that a covers EP from The 'Mats makes for an exciting proposition, feel free to check out any number of cover versions from the back catalogue and listen first-hand to what it sounds like when a band completely fucking owns a song  originally written by another group (Kiss’s "Black Diamond" and The Only One's "Another Girl, Another Planet" among them) .

I am as excited, hell, more excited , to hear this EP than any other full length release this year. And there are A LOT of great albums coming out in 2013, trust me.

Anyway, you'll need to be excusing me now, as I’ve got some new Replacements to prepare myself for, and, come Monday, listen to. I suggest you do the same. You can thank me later.

www.songsforslim.com
Tommy Stinson (twitter): @tommy_stinson
www.chrismarspublishing.com
www.paulwesterberg.com



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