The ReplASSments, volume one

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Your least favorite opinionated femmes are back, with more rants about everyone’s favorite band, the Replacements. We’re actually going to continue with this one, so stay tuned for more delirious rantings about the ‘Mats.

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SORRY MA, FORGOT TO TAKE OUT THE TRASH — AVALON KENNY

Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash  is the ultimate debut record. It is the most untamed and raw Replacements record, for more than just the fact that it was their first. These were fresh faced teenagers with no idea what was ahead of them. They stuck out like sore thumbs in the rising hardcore scene, and no one knew what to make of them. They maintained punk’s snotty and sarcastic attitude, but had poppy hooks and catchy choruses. Were they punk? Were they hardcore? Were they just amphetamine laced, boozed up rock n’ roll? This is pent up, angry adolescent energy, shredded through guitars and beaten through drums. They were bursting at the seams, full of unbridled talent, experimenting with buzzsaw guitar and blast beats.

From the get-go, “Takin’ A Ride,” kicks you in the gut. It’s a drinkin’ and drivin’ anthem. 13-year-old Tommy Stinson’s grating bass is prominent, thumping against Chris Mars’ pounding drums. Tommy’s older brother, Bob, holds the song together with chugging guitar, as Paul sneers witty rhymes about speeding down the street with a bottle in your hand. Up next is the abrasive “Careless,” a disjointed, faced paced song that breaches on hardcore. “Careless” shows that the ‘Mats have no intention of slowing down, so you’d best hold onto your seats. I’ve always kind of thought Paul screaming “I’m in love with the girl who works at the store where I’m nothing but a—“  at the beginning of “Customer” was somewhat of an homage to The Freshies’ “I’m in Love With The Girl Who Works at the Manchester Virgin Megastore Checkout Desk,” but I’m not sure that the timelines work out. “Customer” is a squealing dedication of love to a girl Paul Westerberg only interacts with when he buys cigarettes.

Then there’s “Hangin’ Downtown” – a poppy number that Green Day rips off in their first couple of records – and “Kick Your Door Down,” which has some Boy-era U2 influence in the reverberated guitar. Yeah – maybe you don’t want your precious ‘Mats compared to U2, but their later song, “Kids Don’t Follow” is a direct response to “I Will Follow” (which U2 played twice in their set when the teens saw them on their first US tour). The rest of Side A maintains the same speed with “I Bought a Headache,” about the time Paul bought pot laced with PCP, and “Rattlesnake,” which spits in from the end of “Headache” as one of the fastest, toughest songs on the album. Culminating with “I Hate Music,” a tongue in cheek diatribe about hating your father, but one day you won’t, because “Tommy said so,” – a line which was one of the first of many self-referential Replacements lyrics to come.

Side B kind of takes you by surprise with the haunting “Johnny’s Gonne Die” – which almost sounds like it could be a Fleetwood Mac b-side at first. The Mats’ sarcastic, dirty lyrics are disguised by slower, loungy guitar. It taps into 70s’ rock ‘n’ roll more than the rest of the album while maintaining the same dirty attitude as the rest of the record. But – just as soon as you start to think they’re going to slow down – they’re back with “Shiftless When Idle.” Beginning with splitting drums, the Mats bring you right back up to speed. There’s the chugging “Don’t Ask Why,” with snarling vocals accentuated by crashing drums and buzzing power chords. The song relies heavily on the instrumental aspect, with Paul’s vocals growing incoherent at parts as he wails and repeats himself over intricate lead licks. Up next is the wildly sarcastic “Something To Du,” calling out fellow Minneapolis punks Husker Du. The song itself is almost imitative of early Du, with fast paced drums and screechy guitars dubbed by almost Lemmy-esque, scratchy wails. With the Husker Dudes and the ‘Mats, there was always a sense of rivalry – the former had been looked over by Twin/Tone in favor of the Mats, who were local favorites.

The rest of Side B maintains the speed, with the bass heavy “I’m In Trouble.” You can almost hear Tommy hitting each fret individually, with the occasional Johnny Thunders’ riff squealing over him. “Love You Til Friday” is a little looser than the rest of the album, but just as jacked up. Mars’ heavy, desperate pounds are interlaced with Paul’s screeching about how he goes through women quickly. And then the punk driver, “Shutup” – this is one of the stars of the record, with searing guitar, rolling drums, and Paul’s snarl. There’s also a very obvious callback to The Ramones’ “Gimmie Gimmie Shock Treatment,” and Paul’s final wails almost hint at John Lydon. The album careens to a halt with “Raised in the City,” beginning with surfy drums reminiscent of Radio Birdman’s “Aloha Steve and Danno” and progressing on with chanting vocals, then bass, then guitar.

Though maybe not as praised as Let It Be or Pleased To Meet Me, Sorry Ma… clearly set an unprecedented standard for punk music of their time. This record put them on the map and laid the groundwork for their future records. It wasn’t hardcore, it wasn’t punk, it wasn’t rock, it was the Replacements, and the tape was rolling.

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STINK — ANNA THEODORA

Clocking in at just shy of eighteen minutes, the Replacements’ EP Stink is both the shortest effort the band would put out, and following Sorry, Ma… it’s the last time we would see the band really making a straightforward “punk” record. Even as compared to the records being being made by their peers (Descendents, Black Flag, et. al), there was always something different about the ‘Mats. It’s certainly loud and fast, and it even has a song called “Fuck School” on it, but the Replacements always seemed to be playing with rock n roll closer to their hearts than some of their contemporaries, and with lyrical prowess that could never really be shuttered in with a specific genre label.

Starting off with the gunshot blast that is “Kids Don’t Follow,” the next quarter of an hour provides the listener with raw energy and snotty, snide lyrics that would captivate any angsty teen’s attention (or, truly, the attention and heart of the angsty teen that remains inside all of us). “Stuck in the Middle” feels as simultaneously desolate and brimming with restlessness as any rust belt town, eulogizing and damning the Midwestern region that gave the Replacements their roots and shaped their sound.

Throughout their career, but especially when first starting out, the band was known and notorious for their live shows coming apart at the seams, leaking with beer and energy. Sometimes, like their appearance on SNL, it went down in history. However, there were countless performances lost to the chaos that ensues when you’re dealing with the force of four big personalities all up on a tiny dive bar stage together, attempting to act in unison but ultimately butting heads. Stink bottles up a lot of the best of those performances. The power comes through a car speaker as much as it would a  PA system in a back room or in a basement. For kids who lived miles away, or even now looking back in time at this era of music and the ‘Mats specifically, it portrays an idealistic picture of the raucousness and racket that they brought across the country and onto college radio stations.  Later efforts would branch out, but Stink exists immortalized in 1982 for better, worse, and everything in between.

 

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