The Replacements – Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash

Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash (1981)


1. Takin’ A Ride 2. Careless 3. Customer 4. Hangin’ Downtown 5. Kick Your Door Down 6. Otto 7. I Bought A Headache 8. Rattlesnake 9. I Hate Music 10. Johnny’s Gonna Die 11. Shiftless When Idle 12. More Cigarettes 13. Don’t Ask Why 14. Somethin’ To Dü 15. I’m In Trouble 16. Love You Till Friday 17. Shutup 18. Raised In The City


This is hardcore? I mean, yeah, it’s hard and fast and noisy and it’s got the requisite lack of production value (it sounds like it was recorded in some guy’s basement with, like, one mic and a mixing board made out of reconstituted phone books and scotch tape). But where’s the angry nihilism of Black Flag, or the dejected bitterness of early Hüsker Dü, the very band who co-ruled the bourgeoning early 80s Minneapolis punk scene with these Replacements and to whom there exists a tribute song on this very album cheekily entitled “Somethin’ To Dü”? Well, it sure as heck ain’t present on this album, which sounds to be far more the work of impudent, smart alecky teenagers than that of anarchist moshers, to say the least. I mean, Tommy Stinson was only 14 when this album came out, which may have something to do with it. But mostly, the overall vibe can be attributed to the chosen songwriting topics of Paul Westerberg, who avoids the headier, politically charged topics of his closest contemporaries in favor of singing about taking rides in cars, smoking cigs, hanging out at bus stops, and falling in love with the girl who works at the grocery store.

Indeed, Sorry Ma is about as threatening as a feral kitten. The angriest thing Paul says on the whole album is “I hate music/It’s got too many notes.” In “Kick Your Door Down,” he doesn’t even make good on his bluff, and just stands outside listening to his girlfriend cheat on him. If I ever feel like skull fucking The Man (which honestly is a sentiment I can’t remember feeling too often in my life, oddly enough), I can channel my rage into listening to Damaged. If I just wanna tell the man to screw off for a few minutes while I take a drive with my friends—or just want to pleasure my ears with a unrelentingly catchy stream of 1:30-2:00 punk songs—I’ll put on Sorry Ma.

I mean, goddamn, these guys are clearly inexperienced as fuck – they hadn’t played anywhere outside Minneapolis dive bars yet, and as a result this album probably sold a grand total of like six copies worldwide to people who weren’t active local fans or participants in the Minneapolis punk scene upon its release. But nonetheless, the band began attracting a lot of attention within that scene after only a few months of existence. Of course, plenty of that had to do with the fact that they had their own sound—loud as shit, at once gloriously ramshackle and totally synergistic, and punctuated by the distinctive, shrieking lead guitar of Bob Stinson—and their own attitude, which was less of an instigative “fuck you” than a self-depreciatory “fuck all of us.”

But you know what’s really great about this album? It’s got like a dozen and half insanely great and hooky songs on it! And they just keep coming, one after another and another until you start to wonder how a snot-nosed 21-year old punk like Paul Westerberg managed to come up with so many memorable songs. I mean, no, not every single song is a winner (specifically, “I Bought A Headache” and “Rattlesnake,” sequenced back to back, sort of grind the album’s momentum to halt near the end of side 1). But it’s amazing how much effort went into 90% of the songcraft (or, more likely, just natural talent – I can’t imagine Paul spent too much time writing these songs. Too much drinking to do). Basically, they don’t fall into the same trap that so many young punk rockers do, which is hoping that if you play loud enough and yell a lot, you’ll magically come up with a good song.

Nope, the Replacements are much smarter than that, and rely on catchy hooks to get their point across. There are just all kinds of terrific chord sequences (that descending, swelling progression that opens “Takin’ A Ride,” which gives the unmistakable impression that these guys mean business right off the bat), lead guitar earworms (“Kick Your Door Down,” “Johnny’s Gonna Die”), and great choruses (“Shiftless When Idle,” “I’m In Trouble,” “Raised In The City”). Sure, it’s all pretty samey, which you have to expect from an early hardcore record. But when you’ve got songs as kickass as the three-chord (not to mention three word) “Customer,” which manages to be hilarious, hard rocking, irreverent, and emotionally poignant all at once in just under a minute and a half, who needs variety? The one moment of stylistic diversity is “Johnny’s Gonna Die,” which is slow(er), dark(er), features the best riff on the album, and is also my favorite song on the album. The subject matter—the drug-related deterioration of Johnny Thunders—is especially eerie when one realizes the song could very well apply to Bob Stinson as well.

As with any cult band, there are people who claim it was all downhill from here for the Replacements; that Sorry Ma is the one true representation of the spirit and attitude of the band before they sold out. I don’t agree that they ever lost that spirit (or whatever you want to call it), even after they signed on to a major label. But their endlessly entertaining original sound didn’t stick around for much longer. Even if I think they went on to do greater things, it’s not hard to see why one might feel nostalgic for the Replacements that made Sorry Ma.

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