Let It Be

The Replacements

Twin\Tone Records, 1984


REVIEW BY: Denise Henderson


They say revenge is sweet. So, Christopher Thelen, this one's for you!

The Replacements are a classic case of shoulda, woulda, coulda. They were supposed to be the alternative indie act that broke through big time in the 80's. They were also their own worst enemies and ended up self-destructing in Chicago's Grant Park a few years ago. I for one miss this band. They exemplified everything great and brillant about live music and sometimes everything horrible and downright awful. They were human like me. Besides, they could rock hard or quietly, wrote brilliant little epithets about everyday life and had the resident cranky leader in Westerberg. Show me one great band who doesn't have an mercurial egomaniac at its core!

I was introduced to the Mats at a Cubby Bear show around the time of Let It Be's release. They were already overhyped by every magazine from the Village Voice to NME to Rolling Stone. I was sick of hearing about them and quite skeptical. My good friend told me I'd love the band as they were loud and obnoxious plus they occasionally displayed "absolute rock perfection" during live sets. They stunk. It was 65 minutes of Ted Nugent covers, Westerberg and Bob Stinson were so drunk they wore skirts, and Tommy acted like a hyper-kinetic teenager speeding through his bass lines. Wait, he was a teenager then. To make matters worse, Westerberg tumbled off stage and approached me for a cigarette. When I failed to produce a match, he sneered "What's a rich girl doing at our show?" At the time, I made about $15,000 a year. Huh? I retorted, "You guys suck. Aren't you going to play any originals?" Tottering back onstage, the Mats tore into "Unsatisfied" with Paul sneering at me through the rest of an unbelievable set including most of the new material off Let It Be.

I was converted. I saw God.. After the show, he bought the drinks and I realized I loved the Mats forever more. Insults apparently inspired Paul.

From the start of side one's "I Will Dare" through the end of side two, this album is The Classic of the Replacements catalog. Who can resist the impertinent sneer of Paul's voice throughout "Gary's Got A Boner" for it's all out whacky charm. OK, no tact, but still cute. Paul's voice has matured over the years whether from too many cigarettes and whiskey or plain abuse, but there is an undeniable edge to his vocals throughout. In 1984, these guys were pups and yet to experience the quasi-success of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Tim or Pleased To Meet Me yet. They were ordinary guys just like us who seemed just as lost and confused as the rest of the world. They also seemed to be clueless as to where to go, but they sure were enjoying the ride.

Westerberg's lyrical brillance was beginning to emerge on this album even as he decries "it's only rock and roll" on "Seen Your Video." He can't take himself too seriously, yet on the rock anthem of "Unsatisfied" he says it all to his audience: "Look me in the eyes and tell me that I'm satisfied" Later, he shouts "…I'm so, I'm so, UNSATISFIED…" and your heart breaks along with him. Westerberg has since said in interviews that this was only a song, sorry guys, no deep, tortured feelings went into this Mats classic. But you sure could fool any true fan as they felt their own disillusionments blaring out of their speakers as the boys rocked through the pain.

The quiet ballad "Androgynous" foreshadows Westerberg's own early desires to break from the all-out rockers the band came to be identified with much of their career.. The tinkling piano and Westerberg's gravel-tinged vocals are quietly supported by the Stinson brothers on bass and guitar. But have no fear, for there's plenty for everyone with the hard-rocking "Black Diamond" showcasing why the brothers were one of the most thunderous bass/guitar duos of their day. Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol had a way of interfering with every band member's musical abilities during live shows and some of their later recordings.

This album suggests the promise the Mats held in their early career. They redefined punk/grunge/alternative music in the post-punk era. They could be diabolically noisy in their approach on a song or quietly self-reflective as evidenced throughout the album. A well-balanced rock diet from the bad boys is offered here. Not many other bands have influenced or affected the future music would take in the late eighties and nineties as much as the Mats. Take a listen to current indie radio and somewhere in there is a Paulism, Bobism, and Tommyism, if only in image and approach.

Note to Christopher Thelen: I must agree with you that Westerberg should feel flattered by the Goo Goo Dolls obvious deference to him. Hey remember, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Chris. But my dear co-writer, Don't Tell A Soul is not boring! No wonder it takes Westerberg forever to put out solo records. Nobody will let him stop playing the rocking, hard-drinking buffoon. Give the poor bastard a break. Even he had to grow up sometime. Their wild-child image would haunt and eventually help destroy the Mats.

But listening to Let It Be is like remembering the bloom of adulthood with all the hopes and idealism of youth still in place. The band captured that hip cynicism only a young person can pull off without ridicule.

I may not be able to recapture my youth. I'm starting to feel like a damn dinosaur at live shows anymore as witnessed at a recent Del Amitri promo appearance where other than the band, I was the only person over 30. But, I can always put on the Mats and catch a wave of great, fucking straightforward rock 'n roll on Let It Be.

I sure miss them, skirts and all. And, Paul - I never got rich either.

Rating: A

User Rating: A



© 1997 Denise Henderson and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Twin\Tone Records, and is used for informational purposes only.