Record Review: The Replacements’ “The Complete Studio Albums 1981-1990”

Replacements

The Replacements’ studio output illustrates that the Minnesota legends were at their best together

If your dictionary had really good pictures and you looked next to the word “shambolic,” you’d find a snapshot of Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson—lips curled with a teeth-barely-there grin as well as tangled mussy hair. Flip the pages and go to “chaotic” or “dizzy outright fucking mess,” and you’d find the same snap, no matter when it was shot between 1981 and 1990. Because the Replacements—those two characters, with some variation of Bob Stinson, Chris Mars, Slim Dunlap and Steve Foley—were always that: trashed. Only 1990’s All Shook Down, with its mostly acoustic, mostly Westerberg-ian sound, isn’t trashed; it’s just a world-weary finale to the adrenaline rush and eternal booze cruise/pub-hardcore vibe of the seven records that came before it.

Bound together and boxed up, 1982’s Stink, 1983’s Hootenanny, 1984’s Let It Be, 1985’s Tim, 1987’s Pleased To Meet Me and 1989’s Don’t Tell A Soul could be one long, salty, sweaty pop/punk suite, with its start geared toward fellow Minnesotan hardcore artistes Hüsker Dü (that’d be 1981’s Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash) and stopgaps to celebrate fellow Minnesotan poet Bob Dylan, which occurs in Westerberg’s best (or worst?) lyrical longings. For all the rush and rust of their clunky instrumentation, the Replacements’ trump card was the smirking poetic texts and humorous ramblings of punk-warbling frontman Westerberg, a guy who could make the phrase “Struttin’ up the aisle, big deal, you get to fly/You ain’t nothin’ but a waitress in the sky” come across like a love sonnet. But make no mistake, these guys worked best as a band (their solo projects, each and every one, blow), and this boxed set is a welcome gift. Drink up.

—A.D. Amorosi