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The Replacements - a discography

The Way They Were: A Replacements Discography

Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash (1981)
The punk as fuck debut. Eighteen songs, and most of them suck. Nihilistic portraits of small-town boredom delivered at a breakneck pace by a midwestern four-piece with a bassist not yet old enough for a learner's permit. Includes a jab at hometown rivals called "Somethin To Dü." Hilarious track notes by Paul: "'Kick Your Door Down'—1st take, written 20 mins after we recorded it." As an officially-released document of the birth of a great rock and roll band, though, it's perhaps unmatched; it sure beats the hell out of The Beatles With Tony Sheridan. Pleased to meet you, boys.

The Replacements Stink (1982)
The eight-song followup EP, with more of the same. Classic song titles like "Dope Smokin Moron" and "Fuck School." The birth of the slacker generation? The whole mess blows by in less than 16 minutes.

Hootenanny (1983)
A shift begins. Though the breakneck "Run It" would have fit on either of the first two records, the first steps toward maturity were taken here. "Color Me Impressed" is a perfect power pop moment, and "Hayday" and "Willpower" are emotionally affecting sketches. "Within Your Reach," perhaps the most anomolous track in the band's entire career, is just Paul, a guitar, some cheap electronics, and one of the more heartfelt lyrics of the decade—which Cameron Crowe noticed, as he used the song to death a few years later in "Say Anything." Even the throw-away tracks—"Lovelines," in which Paul reads personal ads over a bluesy backbeat—are charming and worthwhile. A breakthrough.

Let It Be (1984)
Inspired genius. Or maybe not so inspired. In any case, it begins with "I Will Dare," a bouncy roots-rocker with shouted Paul vocals and a guitar solo by guest Peter Buck, and it ends with the disturbing, distorted tape loop denouncing an "Answering Machine." Inbetween, you get their great slacker anthem ("Unsatisfied"), great straight up rockers ("Favorite Thing," "Gary's Got A Boner"), and the band's quirkiest lyrical and musical moments ("Androgynous," "We're Coming Out"). And you get the mostly-instrumental anti-'80s rock manifesto "Seen Your Video." And you get a great ballad, "Sixteen Blue." And the perpetually hilarious "Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out." And their only cover released on an album—and it's Kiss' "Black Diamond," no less. And on and on and on. Fab.

Tim (1985)
Song for song, their major-label debut doesn't quite match up with Let It Be, but damned if they didn't come close. Westerberg's songwriting from here on out is a bit more mature, and while that sacrificed a certain rawness which made the band's first few records so spirited, it also brought into the mix a more reality-based kind of songwriting. As opposed to just playing it fast and hard most of the way through, suddenly things are less clear-cut. There's an offhanded joke—"Waitress In The Sky"—but most of the rest is as earnest as all get-out, and in a more believable way than the early, more punkish material. "Left Of The Dial" and "Bastards Of Young" are among the classics present and accounted for, as well as their best pure pop song, bar none, "Kiss Me On The Bus." A minor classic, despite containing their worst-ever song—the metal-wannabe "Dose Of Thunder," as well as spotty mid-'80s production by Tommy Ramone.

Pleased To Meet Me (1987)
Status quo, except the production's better, and the band's mainly a three-piece with a few guests. Would "Alex Chilton" have been their big hit single had it been about something other than, well, Alex Chilton? O.K., probably not. Nonetheless, in the tradition of "Sir Duke" and "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm In Heaven When You Smile)," it's one of the great musical tributes from a current master to one from the previous generation. Basic pop thrills abound, "Never Mind" and "The Ledge" among them. "Can't Hardly Wait" adds a horn section as well as guitar fills from the aforementioned Mr. Chilton. The boys go lounge in "Nightclub Jitters," while the gorgeous "Skyway" is Westerberg's nearly successful attempt at rewriting McCartney's "Yesterday." Few bands have a better third-best album.

Don't Tell A Soul (1989)
The formula was not exactly stale at this point, though it would be a stretch to say they broke new ground here. In retrospect, though, while Soul took somewhat deserved flack for being a tad slicker than previous outings, that's just nitpicking about The Replacements' fourth consecutive 11-song mini-masterpiece. "I'll Be You" and the rootsy "Achin' To Be" almost were hits, but weren't. "Talent Show" was basically a rewrite of "Alex Chilton," but they did get to play it at some awards show. Whatever. This album got them a tour slot opening up for Tom Petty, who promptly thanked them by stealing the line about "a rebel without a clue" from "I'll Be You" for his own "Into The Great Wide Open."

All Shook Down (1990)
The criminally underrated swan song. Just how much Paul, Tommy, Chris, and Slim play together as a unit on this is a matter of some dispute. Regardless, most bands would give a hell of a lot to bow out with such a classy, great-sounding set of well-crafted songs. No less than seven pop/rock gems which could have cracked the top five in some really cool alternate universe reside here. A sign of age: "When It Began" finds Paul looking back in a way that was truly unimaginable on Sorry Ma. There's also the achingly pretty "Sadly Beautiful" with John Cale on cello, a duet with Johnette Napolitano from Concrete Blonde, and a pair of perfect two-minute character sketches, "Attitude" and "Torture." The set, and the band's recording career, closes with the piano ballad "The Last," proving once and for all that the guy who wrote "I Hate Music" is really one hell of a sentimentalist after all.

YEAH YEAH YEAH, 1997