The Replacements – Tim

Tim (1985)


1. Hold My Life 2. I’ll Buy 3. Kiss Me On The Bus 4. Dose Of Thunder 5. Waitress In The Sky 6. Swingin’ Party 7. Bastards Of Young 8. Lay It Down Clown 9. Left Of The Dial 10. Little Mascara 11. Here Comes A Regular


An ambitious and heartfelt tribute to the immortal ukulele pioneer Tiny Tim, whose haunted warbling never failed to fill Americans’ hearts with unbridled joy, ferocious enthusiasm, and blood clots, the Replacements’ Tim is a sprawling rock opera tracing the entire roller coaster that was his career, from the highs of topping the charts with the immortal hit single “Tiptoe Through The Tulips,” to the lows of that one time he shit himself in a b

One of the most purely enjoyable rock albums of the last thirty years, Tim is an album by the Replacements that was named after some guy, whose name, presumably, was Tim. And though it’s so close to achieving a perfect score that it would probably defeat the merry band of 12-year olds the Chinese call their national gymnastics team in the 2020 Olympics, it’s ultimately held by back by its atrociously compressed, grating production (how could you, Tommy Ramone?!?), which causes the record to sound as if its being emitted from within the depths of a cement mixer. I feel like I shouldn’t allow myself to care enough about it to let it detract from what is otherwise a nearly euphoric listening experience, but shitty engineering and mixing can, and in this case does, inhibit the power of any song, no matter how great. This is especially problematic considering the fact that Tim was the Mats’ major label debut, and thus their shot at claiming the undisputed title of the World’s Biggest College Band, which, in the immortal words of Peter Buck, is something like being known as the world’s tallest midget. Of course, Tim’s production probably isn’t even the top 50 reasons why these guys never made it past MTV’s Buzz Bin in terms of commercial success (a more telling explanation would be the band’s characteristically unruly appearance on SNL in early 1986 in support of this album, which got them slapped with a lifetime ban from the show).

Whatever the reason maybe the Replacements were never meant to make it big; maybe they were just destined to be the darlings of white college-educated music critics that 99.99% of the world has never heard of and, shamefully enough, I’m just playing into that by writing glowing reviews of them that nobody reads. Whatever. None of that stuff, neither the potential success that they squandered nor the legions of nerds they inspired, are anywhere near as interesting to me as the songs, man, and the ones you’ll find on Tim easily rank in the very top tier of any you’ll find from the early alt-rock, or any, era. If you ask me, it’s absolutely mindblowing that “Hold My Life,” “Bastards Of Young,” “Left Of The Dial,” and “Little Mascara” all exist on the same album. In a just world, they would all be absolute anthems of rock music and would receive the same mind-numbing overplaying on classic rock radio that “More Than A Feeling” or “Dream On” or any other cheesy 70s hit of your choice (though thank god they ain’t, cause then I’d be as sick of them as I am of Kansas, and that would be a damn shame). I’m sure fans from the early days were wont to sneer about them being a sax solo away from being on Born In The U.S.A., but even with this thin production, these tunes are so robust and powerful they make Bruce’s platinum sellers seem a little namby pamby by comparison.

And besides, it’s not like Paul’s focus has changed since the old days, just his ambition, and these songs are right within the same hard-hitting emotional zone as “Customer” or “Within Your Reach” were. On “Hold My Life,” he’s still worrying about spending his whole life fucking up and not going anywhere, but instead of using unhinged Bob Stinson guitar solos to do it, he’s using slashing, suspended Richardsian guitar chords and tightly pieced together sectional shifts. On “Bastards Of Young” and “Left On The Dial,” he’s still yelling about the kids he hangs around (though this time around, the scope my have expanded a little from “the 12 smelly drunks from Minneapolis he actually hangs around” to “all these people who seem to like his band and identify with this whole ‘underground’ scene”), but this time, he’s doing it set to massive, insanely catchy classic rock riffs and shout-along choruses instead of ramshackle hardcore. “Little Mascara,” a simple of but evocative sketch of a sad mommy, is a little deeper than anything he’d done pre-Let It Be, but he’d certainly never had that screaming arena-ready lead guitar to augment his storytelling before.

This thing’s got more than rockers, though! Much more! Like the adorably jaunty country goof “Waitress In The Sky,” or the sunny, propulsive “Kiss Me On The Bus,” which is even topped off by a nice clean, George Harrison-ish guitar solo to go with that semi-psychedelic, Revolver-like solo in “Hold My Life.” Neither sound like they were played by Bob Stinson to me, and supposedly he doesn’t play on a bunch of this album. That’s definitely him on the Chuck Berry-ish “I’ll Buy,” but otherwise his role in the band had diminished to minimal. And maybe that’s one reason why older fans began to jump ship during the Tim era. They could say that even the band’s own guitarist didn’t like the direction they were going in and that’s why he pulled away. But that’s not really true – unfortunately, he was just too drunk and belligerent to contribute meaningfully. So he, like anyone who dismissed Tim, missed Paul’s masterpiece “Here Comes A Regular,” the best song about drunks EVER. And accordingly, just like it should be, it communicates just the right amount of desolation and broken dreams through three sadness-tinged major acoustic guitar chords and a synth drone. Oh man. It’s just… shit, man. It’s a heartbreaker. Check it out.

Now, with all these drop dead incredible compositions collected in one place, the only question for most people concerning how much they like Tim is, “just how out of place are ‘Dose Of Thunder’ and ‘Lay It Down Clown’”? Yup, as with “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” and “Gary’s Got A Boner” on Let It Be, they couldn’t help but toss a couple of dumb hard rockers on the album for no good reason. And unlike the last time, I don’t mind them, since they fit better in the style of the rest of the album. Okay, “Lay It Down Clown” is pretty dopey blues rock, but I quite enjoy the much-maligned “Dose Of Thunder” for whatever reason. Still, even if you feel those two tracks get in the way of the overall impact of the album to a greater extent than I do, it’s pretty darn hard to argue that that impact still anything but massive.

And no, I haven’t the slightest idea what the hell is going on on the cover.

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