It’s hard to imagine, nearly three decades down the line, improving on what the Replacements did in their 11-year tenure as alt-rock progenitors. Their impact is as seemingly contradictory as their music: Paul Westerberg and Co.’s collective work has easily outlived the good and the bad reviews, surviving to that now time-honored plateau of deluxe reissues. The first batch of ’Mats re-releases address the band’s Twin/Tone catalog: 1981’s Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash, 1982’s Stink EP, 1983’s Hootenanny and 1984’s Let It Be, each remastered and expanded with band-selected bonus tracks and produced by manager Peter Jesperson.
The necessity of remastering the first four Replacements releases is arguable, and the result is what you’d expect. The varied output of the band either benefits from the treatment or barely shows signs of tampering. The very point of the Replacements is the untempered nature of their music, and the new remastering job thankfully doesn’t go so far as to smooth any of the rough edges that have helped the music endure.
Only ’Mats-rabid audiophiles would be interested in these reissues if it wasn’t for a wealth of bonus material. After 1997’s Sire-specific hits-and-rarities compilation All For Nothing, Nothing For All, this extensive revision of the Twin/Tone releases brings the unevenly expanded Replacements discography into balance and promises to supplant All For Nothing when Rhino releases deluxe editions of 1985’s Tim, 1987’s Pleased To Meet Me, 1989’s Don’t Tell A Soul and 1990’s All Shook Down this fall. From the band’s initial four-song demo to the accomplished instrumentation on Let It Be, these reissues show how the band first learned to create combustion, then sustain it, each time building a bigger and louder engine. Neophytes already intimidated by the Replacements’ back catalog will probably want to steer clear of these expanded reissues, while the rest of us can joyfully have the perspective afforded by almost 30 years of consideration and time-tested triumph jarred one more time. Bonus Material: A total of 30 unreleased tracks span the four CDs—comprising outtakes (notably, an alternate take of Sorry Ma’s “Customer” and alternate-vocal versions of Hootenanny’s “Lovelines” and Let It Be’s “Sixteen Blue”) and demos (“Shutup,” “Raised In The City” and “Answering Machine” among them)—and offer rare glimpses into Westerberg’s songwriting process. [www.rhino.com]