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The Replacements

From Academic Kids

For the 2000 Keanu Reeves movie, see The Replacements (film).

The Replacements (often called The Mats by fans) were a seminal alternative rock band from Minneapolis, Minnesota. They began as a hardcore punk outfit, largely in imitation of hometown heroes Hüsker Dü, but they quickly styled shifted to a more mainstream, blues-influenced rock. Loud and exuberant, the band featured guitarist and vocalist Paul Westerberg, guitarist Bob Stinson, bassist Tommy Stinson, and drummer Chris Mars. Bassist Tommy Stinson was just 12 years old when the band first formed.

The band's first LP, 1981's Sorry Ma Forgot to Take Out the Trash, defined the band's sound and ethos. Too sloppy and unprofessional to be heavy metal, yet too bar-band sounding to be punk rock, the band never fit in from the beginning. Their fast three chord songs, with lyric subjects ranging from anything from drinking and driving to a love song about the cashier at a convenience store, dominated most of the band's setlists for a few years. However, singer/songwriter Paul Westerberg may have been showing a hint of something to come with the B-side to the "I'm in Trouble" single, titled "If Only You Were Lonely". It was just Westerberg on acoustic, pouring out a soulful ballad that sounded more like a Merle Haggard song than it did the Replacements.

The band was famous, or infamous, for their rowdy, drunken shows. It was not uncommon for them to play entire sets of covers, ranging anywhere from Bryan Adams' "Summer of 69" to Lesley Gore's "Look of Love". When they played CBGB, the legendary New York City club, there was a classic moment of Westerberg wit when they played a sloppy rendition of Paul McCartney's universally recognized "Let it Be", but with Westerberg singing the lyrics to his very own "Fuck School". The band decided that they couldn't be the best band that ever played at the legendary venue, but they could be the worst band that ever played there.

Sometimes the band would show up too drunk to play their own songs, and instead play covers, which they were also too drunk to play. But their songs always reflected Westerberg's sly talent for perceptive lyrics about the outcast man and a disaffected condition. They released the four albums on Twin/Tone Records (based in their hometown of Minneapolis), the last two of which, Hootenanny and Let It Be, are widely considered classics by fans of what alternative rock was in the 1980s. Let It Be is often on lists for the best-ever rock albums. The title was typical Replacements: deliberately thumbing their nose at The Beatles' legacy, and putting out a subversive, brilliant, melodic punk record might have been embraced by modern audiences. The Replacements' first major-label release, Tim on Warner, was produced by Tommy Erdelyi (aka Tommy Ramone of the Ramones). It contains classics like "Kiss Me on the Bus" and "Bastards of Young."

After Bob Stinson left the band owing to substance abuse problems he formed Static Taxi with three musicians from the Minneapolis band Uptown. They recorded two albums before folding in 1991. He died in 1995. Meanwhile, Minneapolis guitarist Slim Dunlap played some sessions on the Pleased to Meet Me Replacements album, and then joined the band for its remaining run. The later albums were more quiet, less punky affairs—which cost them the appreciation of hardcore fans, but produced a legacy of brilliant (and overlooked) rock songs. Of all the bands from the '80s, the Replacements were perhaps the most overlooked, the most deserving of widespread, popular appeal. And the fact that they never got it just made them all that much better.

Westerberg, Stinson, Dunlap and Mars have all produced solo albums. Stinson formed the short-lived Bash and Pop, the band Perfect, continues playing with Guns N' Roses and in 2004 released a solo CD titled Village Gorilla Head. Westerberg is currently signed to Vagrant Records, and under his alias, Grandpaboy, to Fat Possum Records, and has released both a DVD and a CD under the title Come Feel Me Tremble. The DVD features some professional footage interspersed with fan footage (for which Paul thanks his fans, left-handedly, in the DVD's titles). Both the CD and DVD are widely considered by fans and critics to be a welcome return to his looser (not loser), younger days. The DVD is especially notable for its footage of Westerberg in his basement studio. Folker, his latest, released in September 2004, is a delightful return to the melodic low-fi brilliance of the Replacements—but a mature work relecting a man in his early 40s.

The Replacements' career is chronicled in Our Band Could Be Your Life, a study of several important American underground rock groups. They were also paid homage by They Might Be Giants with the song "We're The Replacements", originally found on the Don't Let's Start EP.

Discography

  • Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash (Twin/Tone, 1981)
  • Stink EP (Twin/Tone, 1982)
  • Hootenanny (Twin/Tone, 1983)
  • Let It Be (Twin/Tone, 1984)
  • Tim (Warner/Sire, 1985)
  • Boink!! (TwinTone, 1986, reissues)
  • Pleased to Meet Me (Warner/Sire, 1987)
  • Don't Tell a Soul (Warner/Sire, 1989)
  • All Shook Down (Warner/Sire, 1990)
  • All For Nothing/Nothing For All (Warner/Sire, 1997) Greatest Hits/B-Side Collection
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