Don’t Tell a Soul
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Reviewed by Mike Farley
Don’t Tell a Soul featured Matt Wallace at the helm, the producer who has since worked with Faith No More and Maroon 5, and guitarist Slim Dunlap, who had toured with the band behind the Pleased to Meet Me album. Whatever the formula, the result was pop/rock with alternative and punk tinges – delivered with just the right amount of Paul Westerberg’s melodic rasp to create absolute brilliance on tape. With Rhino’s reissue of Don’t Tell a Soul, you can relive the magic of the album and hear a few cool bonus tracks.
You have to remember that in 1989, acts like Poison, Whitesnake, R.E.M., Guns ‘N’ Roses, Janet Jackson, and Phil Collins were hogging the spotlight. The Replacements were like a sanctuary from overproduced hair metal and pop, giving fans hope that a rock band could make an amazing rock record that you could listen to in its entirety, without all the hair or baggage from other acts of the era.
And there were different flavors on Don’t Tell a Soul. Mid-tempo melodic gems like “Talent Show” and “Back to Back” set the tone, but then the Replacements throw you a few curve balls. For instance, “Anywhere Is Better Than Here” has the most punk grit on this set, and features a blood-curdling scream from Westerberg to kick it off. And “Asking Me Lies” is a funky romp that may be one of the band’s best songs, ever. Then there is the laid-back, country-tinged flavor of “Achin’ to Be” and “They’re Blind,” as well as the ubiquitous “I’ll Be You.” Some even credit “Achin’ to Be” with helping to begin the Americana movement. “Rock ‘N’ Roll Ghost” sounds a bit like Westerberg hung out with Alice Cooper for a while, and “Darlin’ One” is another mid-tempo rocker and great closer.
The bonus tracks include “Portland” and “Wake Up,” two tracks recorded with this batch of songs but not released until 1997’s All for Nothing compilation. The former has the “It’s too late to turn back / Here we go” refrain that the band wound up using in “Talent Show.” There is also a demo of “Talent Show,” as well as another mix of “We’ll Inherit the Earth.” Finally, there is “Date to Church” featuring Tom Waits, and a cover of Slade’s “Gudbuy T’ Jane.”
In the great rock landscape, the Replacements are surely a band that has its place, though far enough under the radar to suit them. And Don’t Tell a Soul may not have been thought of as a breakthrough album in 1989. But looking back, it truly was, and is.