Loving the ‘Mats
Can’t seem to get enough of the Replacements these days–whether it’s reading about them in Jim Walsh’s “oral history” or listening nonstop to those early records. Never saw them live, and probably would have been disappointed if I had, but every album from Sorry Ma to Tim (and maybe Pleased to Meet Me) is pretty much indispensable. Odd that a teetotaler would fall in love with a band that was anything but straight edge, but I’m there. Of course, the ‘Mats weren’t all about drinking and behaving badly. It’s the music, not the image, that will always matter to those of us who really got them. And there’s no question that the music–at least up until the last couple of albums–holds up.
For a long time Let it Be and Tim were the only Replacements records I owned or thought I needed, probably because the All Music Guide told me they were the essential albums (I used to let music critics influence my purchases a lot more than I do now), but lately I’ve been listening to the older stuff and finding a lot to love. (“If Only You Were Lonely,” anyone?) I’m not sure what it is about Westerberg, Mars, and those Stinson brothers that fascinates me so much, or maybe I do and just can’t articulate it yet, but at some point I just found myself in the diehard camp, wishing I had known about them way back when. Same thing happened with Uncle Tupelo, another band I love, to say nothing of the Minutemen and Black Flag. I’d like to think I would have been smart enough to appreciate those bands in their own lifetime, but who knows? My tase in music hasn’t always been impeccable. I used to listen to U2, for Christ’s sake. Maybe I had to be in my late twenties and early thirties to know what music was good for me. Strange that the older I’ve gotten, the more punk my tastes have become.
Anyway, I don’t know how long this Replacements kick will last, but I intend to enjoy it while it does. Truth is, I’m not hearing a lot of new stuff that excites me as much as discovering those overlooked underground bands of yesterday does. Used to love the Drive-By Truckers, but their last album didn’t impress me all that much, and I can’t help wondering if they shouldn’t have packed it in after Brighter than Creation’s Dark or The Big To-Do. I know I should get the new Gillian Welch album, and I’m sure I will eventually, but right now it’s the Replacements who are occupying that space in my head and bloodstream. Maybe I’ll move on to Big Star next. After listening to “Alex Chilton” every day for the past couple of months, I’m inclined to think that might be the way to go.