Of all the bands that have autobiographical careers, I cannot think of any lives/bands as stereotypes as Westerberg’s Replacements. They were callow, raucous teens, then they were confused and experimental, then they came of age, now they’re of age and serious. No more laughy fun, no more silly noisy songs, no more crashing on friends’ couches and making out with their girlfriends and getting the crap beaten out of them for it. Not that I do that, I’m just saying.
Maturity is a must musically (probably in life too – and yes, I do I think rompers are attractive), or you end up doing the same thing in watered down form, hammering the same blah chords over and over, like The Ramones. The Subs of this album are barely recognizable from the “Sorry Ma, I Just Don’t Like Black People”, with only raggedy-Ann Westerberg’s distinctive voice really keeping it the same.
So they matured and shit. Musically, this is mostly good, but let’s deal with the bad first. In coming of age, they realized they want to make money, so the productive is way the shit cleaned up and 80s-ized. It’d get worse later on, too. Nowhere do guitars noodle noisily in one ear, or songs sound half-finished or half-recorded. So that’s mostly bad because of their “let’s go with the times’ production, but also because, with age, they could no longer make decent rock songs, only “rock” songs and rock “songs.” The latter are awful – the overly macho quasi-metal “Dose of Thunder” and “Lay it Down Clown” – which tries to sound all tough and threatening but calls the antagonist a “clown,” which just sounds like the product of someone who’s never actually been in the kind of knife fight the song describes – are both terrible. Fortunately, the “rock” songs are great! Midtempo, pleasing stompers like “Hold My Life” and the please-give-this-radio-play-because-I-speak-for-my-generation “Bastards of Young” will please all discerning folk. And despite their maturity, they aren’t above being cute! “Kiss Me on The Bus” is a lovely Hollies-ish song that mentions “your tongue” and “your transfer” consecutively, and “Waitress in the Sky” is a playful acoustic jab at hostesses. And thanks to their maturity, they can now convincingly write great songs like “Here Comes A Regular”, the album’s tale of sad alcoholism and by far the best song here – thank the ghostly production! …And decent songs like the “parties are done” song “Swingin’ Party.”
Unfortunately, if I didn’t mention it here, it wasn’t memorable at all, and on a short album like this one that’s sort of a big deal! The bonus tracks are blah too: one good outtake, two stupid demos of “Can’t Hardly Wait” that are only good for reminding you that it became a great song on the next album and not on this one, and unnecessary, unilluminating alternate versions of three album tracks. Alternate versions are supposed to say something about the featured works, record company! And stop putting the stupid “slamming door and footsteps” sound afTER THE LAST SONG! I’M TRYING TO LISTEN TO “HERE COMES A REGULAR” HERE. I wish I liked this album more, but really I just really like five songs a whole lot. I’ll have to give it a six.