The Replacements – Songs For Slim – EP

Songs For Slim – EP (2013)

B+ 

1. Busted Up 2. Radio Hook Word Hit 3. I’m Not Sayin’ 4. Lost Highway 5. Everything’s Coming Up Roses

 

Reunion time! Granted, this EP and three subsequent festival gigs featuring Paul, Tommy, and a couple of random sidemen as “the Replacements” constitutes only second most exciting reunion of 2013 after the TOTALLY AWESOME ‘NSync reunion that happened at the VMAs, but still. Besides, this wasn’t your usual mid-life crisis cash grab deal. Rather, its impetus was Slim Dunlap—best known for playing lead guitar on those last two Mats LPs that nobody gives a crap about—suffering from a sudden a debilitating stroke. Naturally, this caused he and his family to incur gargantuan medical bills (THANKS FOR NOTHING, OBAMA, YOU SOCIALIST KENYAN NAZI), spurring his former bandmates to organize a charitable recording project to help their old buddy make ends meet. That project involved not just this EP, but also a full tribute album featuring a bunch of famous Slim/Mats fans covering songs from Slim’s solo catalog, which, unbeknownst to me, has something of cult following.

As for this EP, the first new studio release by the Replacements in 23 years (that’s one year longer than I’ve been alive! Chew on that, yo!), it features five cover songs and zero original compositions. I guess that’s good news for people who consider mediocre late-career songwriting to be irredeemably legacy-tainting, but the even better news is that the Replacements can still play pretty darn good, and Paul still sounds just like himself. So it’s a worthy addition to the catalog, even if it’s only the Replacements featuring two literal replacements, since Bob is dead and Chris Mars no long wants anything to do with Paul and Tommy. I don’t really know the story behind that, but I’m assuming it has something to do with them all being drunken pricks to each other. In any case, Chris actually does appear here – the cover of Slim’s appropriately/ironically infectious “Radio Hook Word Hit” is the estranged drummer by himself, which I suppose was the perfect way for him to help out Slim without having to resort to, you know, being in the same room with Paul Westerberg, which seems reasonable to me. The full band, meanwhile, contributes a nicely groove-heavy, piano-based, Exile-ish version of Slim’s “Busted Up.”

The three songs not written by Slim Dunlap are a pleasingly eclectic and recognizable. They do up Gordon Lightfoot’s mid-60s folk hit “I’m Not Sayin’” to sound just like a vintage mid-80s Westerberg composition; they rip through Hank Williams’ classic “Lost Highway” in a rowdy barroom-friendly manner that suggests if the band had never broken up, they could have carved out a place for themselves during the 90s alt-country boom; and they close with a tongue-in-cheek, “Lovelines”-esque take on the show tune “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” which I have actually seen performed live on Broadway by Bernadette Peters! I’m incredibly cultured, I know, but I still love dat rock ‘n roll. And those Mats. Glad they’re back.



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