The Replacements – Introductory Page

The Replacements



For a certain segment of our fine nation’s population—the segment that grew feeling misunderstood and left behind in the Reagan 80s and spent all their time trolling the record stores of the Midwest—the Replacements are their generation’s greatest folk heroes. They showed their most devoted fans that it was possible to be who you are and not care what anybody else thinks, and no matter how many times you fuck up you can still keep trying to fix your life and redeem yourself eventually. For every great show the Replacements ever played, there was at least one counterpart to it that degenerated into complete drunken incoherence, self-sabotage, and bar fights. But it didn’t matter, because they made The Kids feel like they were a part of something for the first time. They didn’t just invent underground rock, they changed lives, man!

That’s the way everyone who was there tells it anyway. And there must have been something to it, because as far as bands with extraordinarily high ratios of number of bands who claim their influence to any tangible amount of commercial success, you’ve got the Velvet Underground and you’ve got the Replacements, and no one else really comes close. And that right there tells you that there was more to them than simply being four regular ass dudes with a penchant for getting blackout drunk and playing sloppy covers of classic rock songs instead of, you know, making constructive career moves that might’ve actually gotten them somewhere. Not that there’s no value for the audience in that image – I can certainly see why, in 1984, a 23-year old working at a liquor store in St. Paul afraid of never leaving North Buttfuck County, Minnesota in his life might come to romanticize such behavior. “FUCK YOU, mom and dad… I have the ability to something productive with my life if I WANTED to, but I’d rather fuck around with my friends, thank you VERY MUCH. FUCKING DEAL WITH IT.” But that certainly wasn’t the ‘Placemats’ only point of appeal. I mean, obviously – they wouldn’t continue to be so revered by critics and fans alike if they didn’t have the songs and the talent to drunkenly sabotage in the first place.

Certainly, I believe that irrespective of all the extramusical stuff, the Replacements can boast a canon that warrants their inclusion in the discussion about the Great American Rock Band. They’ve certainly got as solid a musical resume as anyone else of their era… along with Husker Du, they founded and defined the influential Minneapolis hardcore scene, before evolving their sound and recording at least two or three (depending on who you ask) of the best rock albums of the 80s. For the uninitiated, most of that accomplishment is down to Mr. Paul Westerberg, singer/songwriter/guitarist and alt-rock’s ultimate everyman. The guy who led a band of drunken cokehead pricks that just wanted him to write songs that would let them play noisy rock ‘n roll and scream juvenile punk lyrics, but who, though happy to oblige his bandmates early on, all along had it in him to write bleeding heart Sensitive Guy classics like “Unsatisfied” and “Here Comes A Regular.” Not that he wasn’t a drunken cokehead prick himself, mind you, but like many talented drunken cokehead pricks that came before, and after, him, he managed to channel what insecurity, anxiousness, and pain he had in him into some of the most powerfully emotional songs you will ever hear in your life. And boy, did he ever have the voice to fit the songs… it’s anything but a beautiful voice – it’s raspy, warty, and about as note perfect as Ted Cruz is American academia’s leading intellectual. But if by some twist of fate I encountered a genie living in my toilet and he offered to grant me the gift of turning my singing voice into that of any rock ‘n roll singer in history in exchange for hiding him when the jackbooted Disney thugs come looking for him, I think my top two choices would be 1) Paul McCartney, and 2) Paul Westerberg. I’m not sure any other singer in rock has ever been able to convey so much with so little.

The other guys had their parts to play too, no doubt. Drummer Chris Mars rocked it behind the kit and later played in the alt-country supergroup Golden Smog, oddly enough; bassist Tommy Stinson didn’t come of legal drinking age until the band had released their fifth album and for some weird reason now plays with the beyond-bastardized version of Guns N Roses that Axl Rose trots out on stage every now and again; Tommy’s brother, lead guitarist Bob Stinson, liked to play kinda goofy yet wild and searing bluesy solos, and his wacky antics, belligerence, and extreme alcohol and drug addictions were enough to get him kicked out of even this band by the time they made their major label jump in 1985 – not to mention get him killed at a much too early age (he died at age 35 in 1995). Slim Dunlap took his place in the lineup for the band’s last two albums before they called it quits in 1991.

The cult of the Replacements is one of the fiercest fandoms in all of rock, and even if you don’t believe Paul Westerberg is the second coming of Jesus (fortunately for Jesus, he, unlike Westerberg, didn’t live long enough to make a bunch of two-bit solo albums), if you’ve ever felt lonely and misunderstood—and if you like awesome, hooky songs with rocking guitars—it’s hard to argue that the Placemats aren’t worthy of some level of devotion.

Even though they had stupid poofy hair for a while there. It was the 80s. Give them a break.

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