The Replacements. Possibly the only band since The Clash that really mattered in music. If The Clash were dubbed “The Only Band That Matters” then The Replacements certainly carried that weight here in the States. The Replacements haven’t performed live since 1991, right before the threshold of grunge engulfed the planet. However, given the recent rise in Replacements honor and respect, bassist Tommy Stinson and guitarist/singer Paul Westerberg were featured in a new article in regards to the reunion. The duo have pondered with flames of reunions for years, but this seems to be the closest we will get to see the legendary Minneapolis quartet perform once more. We can all hope for that. In hopes of fanning the flames of a reunion, Twin/Tone, the band’s early label, re-released their first four albums, and as you can tell from the title, Let It Be appears here.
Let It Be originally was released in 1984 to numerous critical acclaim, even earning the rare A+ from esteemed rock critic Robert Christgau. Regardless, the original album launches missile after missile into the human heart with no signs of letting go. In an era of pop new wave tearing up the Top 40 charts across the States, The Replacements proved to be one of the truly last bands that never sold their integrity to anyone and put up one helluva fight until the end; think Leonidas against the massive Persian army.
Let It Be kicks off with “I Will Dare,” one of the most beloved ‘Mats tunes. Westerberg’s guitar shuffle backed by R.E.M.’s Peter Buck’s leadwork and Chris Mars’ perfect shuffle beats ring true. Right off the bat, the band is gearing for greatness. Its like rooting for an underdog baseball team and the pitcher is throwing strikeouts as if they’re going out of style. Westerberg’s throaty vocals full of angst and courage that at first listen, you can’t help but root for the band to make a difference and scoff the rest. “Favorite Thing” and “We’re Comin’ Out” feature great leadwork from the late Bob Stinson’s quirky fingers. With Westerberg’s vocals in check and Tommy Stinson’s bass guitar kicking major ass, the real unsung hero is Chris Mars. His drumming is impeccable and unbelievably important to the band…like the pun goes, he never misses a beat. The only other drummer that compares in this much importance is The Clash’s Topper Headon. Funny mentioning the two, because they’re both great drummers and they both matter.
Westerberg takes a sly stab at Tommy on “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” with a humorous portrayal of a doctor giving more of a crap about golfing and teeing off in time than dealing with his patient. Truly, it is an instant punk classic. The solo piano work “Androgynous” slows the album down a few notches and truly brings to light the gist of Westerberg’s songwriting. Who else could paint such a portrait of two individuals dealing with problems as well as Westerberg? The song sends shivers down the spines of the affected, those who feel it in their bones.
The KISS tribute “Black Diamond” follows and seriously gives the New York quartet a run for their money. Bob Stinson makes Ace Frehley’s makeup crack with a smile with a blistering solo towards the end of the song and Tommy and Paul’s vocal harmonies are great nonetheless. This is a worthy cover just as good as the original, just like Joe Cocker’s classic cover of The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends.”
The album’s highlight, “Unsatisfied” will certainly guarantee a direct missile to the heart. Westerberg nails the perils of growing up, teenage angst and finding places in the world with a direct hit. The beginning guitar intro arpeggiates its way into a wonderful chord progression in F Major in which Westerberg soulfully sings the first verse with immediate reaction:
Look me in the eye
Then, tell me that I’m satisfied
Was you satisfied?
Look me in the eye
Then, tell me that I’m satisfied
Hey, are you satisfied?
And it goes so slowly on
Everything I’ve ever wanted
Tell me what’s wrong
There’s more honestly in the first verse than there are in a million and one albums released in the mid 80’s. Many bands would give their firstborn to live life and approach it the way the ‘Mats did. Captured on disc is a once in a lifetime bottle of lightning that lives forever in the hearts of the disenchanted. I really do get tears in my eyes just thinking about it. Real is real, and it hurts when it truly is real.
The band ends the classic album with the four punch lineup of the anti-MTV anthem “Seen Your Video,” the Ted Nugent influenced ‘Gary’s Got A Boner,” the heart-wrenching tribute to the 16th year of life in “Sixteen Blue” and the hilarious, but appropriate closer “Answering Machine.” With the deluxe edition in check however, the album is far from over.
Left off the original recording and included a mere twenty four years later are some truly killer cuts. The group recorded a sick and awesome (dare I say pre-grunge?) cover of T. Rex’s classic glam anthem “20th Century Boy.” No doubt, Bob Stinson should one day be hoisted as such for being such a guitar god. He can’t shred like Eddie Van Halen, but goddamn did his solos make for some exciting music. We’re also treated to two outtake originals “Perfectly Lethal” and “Temptation Eyes.” Both sound great, really. I don’t see why they weren’t released, but then again, if anything added more to the original Let It Be, it would have detracted from the album’s flow. It’s a wonderful treat to hear two would-have-been Let It Be cuts, as Bob Stinson owns on both tunes. The album then follows with a Westerberg outtake demo for “Answering Machine.” an alternative lyrical version of “Sixteen Blue” and a rough outtake of another lost original called “Heartbeat – It’s A Lovebeat.” Regardless, Westerberg isn’t afraid to grow up and show some maturity on the subject of love and loss.
With the newer and updated version of Let It Be intact, The Replacements really show how much they mattered to so many people in such desolate times. The band had their backs to the wall their entire career, but they never gave a damn. They lived by the motto of “all for nothing and nothing for all” and certainly meant it. Let It Be will become one of those albums people will find hidden in time capsules, whether it be on vinyl, cassette tape, compact disc or digital boxes. The album grows and flourishes with each passing year and it’s finally appropriate after all this time that it’s finally found it’s home.