When it all began, the Replacements didn't aspire to be the voice of a generation, or anything much at all, really, other than a kick-ass rock 'n' roll band. But singer/songwriter Paul Westerberg and his mates — guitarist Bob Stinson, bass Tommy Stinson, drummer Chris Mars — were a little too talented to just tear it up in bars and dives forever, and the Replacements evolved into one of the best bands of the 1980s. They were loud and smart, messy and true. Their first four albums were reissued by Rhino Records earlier this year, with a ton of bonus tracks.
Now Rhino is back with the second half, the final four Replacements albums from 1985-1990 all polished up with remastered sound, liner notes and a nice selection of bonus demos, rare and live tracks. For Replacements fans, these are must-haves, with a total of 35 new songs added between the four discs.
The Replacements' fourth album, Let It Be, was an audacious masterpiece (naming yourself after a Beatles disc does take a peculiar kind of guts). The band got signed to the major label Sire, and were poised for greatness. Unfortunately, the major label marked the beginning of the end — founding guitarist Bob Stinson soon got kicked out over his self-destructive alcoholism, there was the usual tug-of-war between trying to win fame and trying to stay true to themselves, and the Replacements flamed out by 1990.
Let It Be's 1985 followup, Tim, still showed the band at the height of their chaotic powers. Westerberg was stretching his songwriting wings here and it's classic tracks one after another: "Hold My Life," "Bastards of Young," "Kiss Me On The Bus," "Waitress In The Sky." The mature talent that showed in early tracks like "Shiftless When Idle" blossoms here – Westerberg is trying to articulate what it means to be young, confused and indecisive, and that yearning, questing feeling illuminates the best of his work. He doesn't pretend to have the answers, as he sings on "Bastards of Young": "God, what a mess, on the ladder of success / Where you take one step and miss the whole first rung." The outtakes here include several versions of songs recorded with Big Star lead singer Alex Chilton, who would be homaged in the band's next album. If you like "Can't Hardly Wait," you'll find two versions of it in the bonus tracks - echoey acoustic and spiky electrified ones. Shortly after Tim was finished, Bob Stinson, who never liked Westerberg's mellower songwriting directions, was kicked out of the band and a bit of the outlaw edge was lost.