CD Review of Let It Be by The Replacements
Recommended if you like
The Ramones, Hüsker Dü, The Clash
TwinTone/Rykodisc/ Rhino
The Replacements: Let It Be

Reviewed by Red Rocker


n 1984, it was tough being the Replacements, or anyone else trying to make truly relevant or groundbreaking music. The post-disco era was several years old, and nothing was really happening – MTV was the yardstick any major artist was being measured by, and if you weren’t Madonna, Michael Jackson, or Wham!, you barely stood a chance. The Rolling Stones were in meltdown mode, the Police were ready to split, and hair metal was just starting to rear its teased-up head. So where in the world would a post-modern garage band from Minneapolis, whose prior album was called Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash and included songs like “Kick Your Door Down” and “Johnny’s Gonna Die,” possibly fit in?

Well, tragically, they didn’t fit in. Even a few years later, after R.E.M. and the Pixies had created a legitimate need for modern rock radio, the ‘Mats were too far outside the box for any genre to contain. For a band that burned so hot it couldn’t even last a decade – and yet made one of the most lasting impressions on the alt-rock cave walls – the 1984 release Let It Be was as close to their peak as any album in their inventory. Many would argue it’s the first of an unmatched three-album run (followed by Tim the next year and Pleased to Meet Me in 1987) that most bands would kill for. Whether the thrashing absurdity of “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” (“Rip, rip, we’re gonna rip ‘em out now!”) or the hauntingly pretty ode to drag queens “Androgynous,” Paul Westerberg wrote abstractly about everyday events he witnessed on American streets. Once he had a lyric and a simple melody, Bob Stinson would lay a ragged, unsophisticated riff to it, and Tommy Stinson and Chris Mars would simply play as fast and as loud as they could to try and keep a beat.

The Replacements

While “I Will Dare” is one of the best pop songs the Replacements ever wrote, it was an uphill battle, to say the least, to have it heard on an album that shared space with a manic Kiss cover (“Black Diamond”) and a song called “Gary’s Got a Boner.” Label execs were hardly lined up outside the Minneapolis garages with blank contracts at a time when “Dancing in the Dark” and “When Doves Cry” dominated the airwaves. Pop culture films through the years have saluted the ‘Mats and this album specifically (“Airheads” used the poignant “Unsatisfied” in a perfectly pitiful scene), noting the mark – or blemish – it left on the face of alternative rock.

This expanded reissue version boasts a frenzied take on T. Rex’s “20th Century Boy” that was a regular in their live sets at the time. This cut alone is worth the price of the enhanced collection, but the Grass Roots’ “Temptation Eyes” and a solo home demo outtake of “Answering Machine” must be heard as well. For all the talk of a potential Replacements reunion, listening to these songs nearly 25 years later makes you think they’re probably better off not even trying to fit in now. Not that they ever could.

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