2016 Scrutinized

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AVALON’S TOP WHATEVERS

ALBUMS

The Cowboys – Self Titled (January 2016, Bloomington,
Lumpy Records)
Dark Thoughts – Self Titled (April 2016, Philly, Stupid
Bag Records)
Mean Jeans – Tight New Dimension (April 2016, Portland,
Fat Wreck)
Lumpy And The Dumpers – Huff My Sack (May 2016, St.
Louis, Lumpy Records)
Cinderblock – Self Titled (July 2016, Boston, Brain
Solvent Propaganda)
Crown Court – Capital Offence (August 2016, UK, Katorga
Works)
Pure Disgust – Self Titled (August 2016, DC, Katorga
Works)
Cheena – Spend The Night With… (August 2016, NYC,
Sacred Bones)
Vanity – Don’t Be Shy (August 2016, NYC, Katorga Works)
Totally Slow – Bleed Out (September 2016, Greensboro, Self Aware)
Omegas – Power To Exist (November 2016, Montreal, Beach
Impediment Records)

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EPS

Strutter – Self Titled (February 2016, Austin, Beach
Impediment Records)
Holders Scar – World Fever (April 2016, Greensboro,
self released)
Blackball  – Self Titled (April 2016, Raleigh, Sorry State Records)
Rixe – Les Nerfs A Vif (April 2016, France, La Vida Es
Un Mus)
JJ Doll – Self Titled (June 2016, NYC, Katorga Works)
Beta Boys – Real Rockers (March 2016, Kansas City,
Lumpy Records)
Warthog – Self Titled (August 2016, NYC, Beach
Impediment Records)
Drugcharge – Self Titled (August 2016, Raleigh, Sorry State Records)
Haram – What Do You See (September 2016, NYC, Toxic
State)
Color TV – Self Titled (September 2016, St Paul,
Deranged Records)

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Green Beret – Standing at the Mouth of Hell (March
2016, Boston, Side Two)
Blood Pressure – Need To Control (April 2016, PGH,
Beach Impediment Records)
Liquids – Hot Liqs (May 2016, NWI, Drunken Sailor)
Bad Eric – 6 Songs (May 2016, Greensboro, self
released)
Fried Egg – Delirium (July 2016, Richmond, Negative
Jazz)
Mommy – Songs About Children (September 2016, NYC,
Toxic State)
Nancy – With Child (September 2016, NYC, Eat The Life)
Sonic Avenues – Disconnector (October 2016, Montreal,
Dirtnap)
SLIP – Slippery When Wet (November 2016, PGH, Sorry
State)

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Photo of me screaming at the Zero Boys set by Angela Owens

SHOWS

Damaged City Fest (April 2016)
Highlight: Having Kenny Scumstack tell me he’s going to “get the band back together” RE: Unholy Thoughts. Best bands would be Zero Boys, Torso, SHIT, and Dame.

The Ergs @ The Chris Gethard Show (May 2016)
Highlight: It’s the fucking Ergs.

Punk Rock Bowling @ Stone Pony (June 2016)
Highlight: facetiming my dad during Flag, dislocating my rib during Cock Sparrer.

Cro Mags/Breakdown/Token Entry/Antidote/Maximum Penalty
@ Tompkins Square Park (July 2016)
Highlight: Literally dying of heat stroke during Cro Mags.

Municipal Waste/Career Suicide/Double Negative/Caustic
Christ/Blood Pressure @ some brewery in Richmond
(August 2016)
Highlight: Seeing Double fucking Negative!

Go Go’s @ Stone Pony (August 2016)
Highlight: Jane Wiedlin being a perfect angel.

Evan Dando @ City Winery (August 2016)
Highlight: Nothing about the show. It was a trainwreck. But afterwards, he chased my friends and I down the street yelling “you’re not getting away from me with that Eater backpatch!”

Bruce Springsteen @ The Meadowlands (August 2016)
Highlight: Convincing the ladies beside Anna and I that I was going to propose to them, crying to “4th Of July Asbury Park (Sandy)”

Diat/Warthog/JJ Doll/Vacant Life @ 538 (September 2016)
Highlight: Swimming in my own sweat during Diat, puking off the roof.

Buzzcocks @ Irving Plaza (October 2016)
Highlight: telling my mom I’m going to get up front, look behind me halfway through “Harmony in my Head” and seeing her yowling.

Green Day @ Webster Hall (October 2016)
Highlight: the setlist which included “Armatage Shanks” and “409 in your Coffeemaker.”

Vanilla Poppers/Kaleidescope/Yam Bag/Porvenir Obscuro @ Matchless (December 2016)
Highlight: Vanilla Poppers’ frontwoman writhing on the floor.

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ANNA’S TOP WHATEVERS

ALBUMS

  1. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Skeleton Tree – the saddest album of 2016, this album is dripping with mourning and is the only album on my list I haven’t been spinning regularly because it’s just so heavy. It feels like one long song, but in this case that isn’t a complaint.
  2. Pure Disgust, s/t- the best hardcore record of 2016 and even NPR and Rolling Stone agree, these dudes deserve all of the praise they receive.
  3. Sonic  Avenues, Disconnecter – I love when a band does a new or different thing (going down a different SONIC AVENUE here, eh, eh) and it works so well in this case. Put a little post punk in your garage rock with these kids from Montreal
  4. Dyke Drama, Up Against the Bricks – Sadie from GLOSS has a Replacements-core band?? Sign me the fuck up. In all seriousness, these songs are heart wrenching and important and fun as hell to sing along to as well.
  5. Mean Jeans, Tight New Dimension – more jams from one of the best live bands out there right now. Keeping up with their repertoire of fun drinking songs, this band is rock n roll personified right now and always makes music that gets you stoked.
  6. Somnia, How the Moon Shines on the Shit – heartfelt songs from members of RVIVR, Latterman, and the Max Levine Ensemble. Doing pop punk right, writing songs about sleep and dreams that instantly worked themselves into regular rotation for me.
  7. Super Unison, Auto – anyone who went into listening to this expecting Punch part two was sorely mistaken; Auto draws from post punk and its anger is as present as it is mature and incisive. Do not sleep on this band.
  8. Tenement, Bruised Music Volume 2 – it’s dad rock without being boring, fun without being silly, and unique without trying too hard. Not a huge leap from their other releases but nuanced enough to stand on its own.
  9. Big Eyes, Stake My Claim – the guitar work on this album makes my heart sing. Bands like mean jeans are super fun in their brand of garage rock, and that definitely has its place but so does Big Eyes’ take, which leans more dark and serious without losing it’s catchiness.
  10. Mommy, Songs About Children – make hardcore weird again

HONORABLE MENTION : Diat, Positive Energy – this was released in 2015 but i didn’t hear it until 2016 (because timezones or exchange rates or…something) and it’s honestly my album of the year without a doubt

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7”s

  1. GLOSS, Trans Day of Revenge – like any good hardcore band, they release a small amount of music and disappear forever. We’ll miss you, GLOSS.
  2. Sheer Mag, III – DIY Thin Lizzy; Sheer Mag is as fun as they are important. Aggressive and riff heavy, songs to make you want to dance and organize.
  3. Carly Rae Jepsen, Emotion B-Sides – emotion was a fantastic album, and the B-sides manage to still blow it out of the water. It’s 80’s inspired synth pop at it’s finest, danceable and sincere without being reductive.
  4. Night Witch, Tour Tape 2016 – it can be so devastating and emotionally exhausting to exist as a femme or a woman or a survivor in this world, and any bit of respite we would hope to obtain from joining a subculture like punk or hardcore can be spit back in our faces as more and more people are outed as abusers. Night Witch lets it be knows that they are here for the outcasts of the outcasts, and the songs are tight as fuck on top of that.
  5. HIRS, You Can’t Kill Us/Trans Day of Revenge – this band can do no wrong to me. Aggressive and aggressively gay, the powerviolence (I don’t even like ascribing the band a genre at all, though) collective is out there making some of the most authentic and important music (and a ton of it too) out right now. Pay attention.

SHOWS

  1. The Ergs @ Hi Dive, Gainesville (Fest 15)
  2. Iron Chic @ Loosey’s, Gainesville (Fest 15)
  3. Night Witch @ ABC No Rio in Exile, Brooklyn
  4. Bruce Springsteen @ Meadowlands , New Jersey
  5. The Sonics @ Warsaw, Brooklyn
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Hell Comes To Your Blog, Pt 3: DC

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Minor Threat

When Black Flag first started shredding on the West Coast, DC was forming its own scene. Emerging from the small punk scene that had been established by bands like the Slickee Boys, DC hardcore maintained a largely DIY ethos. Because many of the venues were basements or churches, it lent itself to be more welcoming to younger punks than places like New York or Los Angeles, where most shows were in clubs and all ages venues were scarce.

In the dawn of DC hardcore, the Bad Brains formed in 1976. Initially they weren’t even a punk band – beginning as a jazz fusion band called Mind Power, they transitioned into a tougher sound after discovering bands like the Dead Boys and the Sex Pistols. Few bands at the time reached the momentous tempo their songs possessed, with H.R.’s snarling voice topping searing guitar licks from Dr. Know. Not only was their sound incredibly innovative, they were some of the first pioneers of all-African American punk groups (along with lesser-known Death from Detroit). They relocated to New York after they were “Banned In DC” for having notoriously wild shows with rough pits, but their impact on DC’s punk scene was ineradicable.

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Bad Brains

 

Georgetown University became a central location for the growing scene, with its student-run radio station WGTB being the primary means of access for teenagers in the community to discover new music. After WGTB was shut down, the students hosted a benefit that featured The Cramps. This was  the first punk show that Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson ever attended, and its impact was obvious. Influenced by bands like the Bad Brains, the two formed the Teen Idles, an aggressive punk band with barking vocals and splitting guitar riffs. Their seminal EP, Minor Distrubance, laid the groundwork for the future of DCHC. MacKaye ultimately decided he wanted to be a frontman, and Minor Threat was spawned from the ashes of Teen Idles. Unarguably the most important band to come from that scene, Minor Threat had a huge influence on their peers and community. Bands like S.O.A. (featuring Henry Garfield, later Rollins), Void, The Faith (featuring Alec MacKaye), Iron Cross, Youth Brigade, and Government Issue formed in their wake. Straightedge, as a movement, also was started in part due to the efforts of Minor Threat, whose song “Out Of Step” declared “I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t fuck.” Nelson and MacKaye also founded the pivotal record label, Dischord Records, which is still actively putting out albums today. Ian MacKaye also fronted several other influential bands, including Embrace and Fugazi.

Revolution Summer occurred in 1985, challenging the state of punk at the time. It had transitioned into a tough guys’ scene, largely in part due to slamdancing and skinhead violence. Shows had become violent and aggressive, with women and other marginalized groups pushed out. Ian MacKaye became disenchanted with the new norm of punk and, along with people like Amy Pickering of the band Fire Party, began restructuring the scene. There was metamorphosis of sound from abrasive machismo bands to more melodic and emotive hardcore. Rites of Spring, Dag Nasty, and Embrace came to the forefront of the scene, confronting the aggressive mindset that had consumed DC. Rites of Spring, though short lived, transformed the idea that hardcore had to be pigeonholed into blast beats and splintering guitar. Their complex song structure bent the rules of hardcore, with lyrical content that focused on personal issues, not typically seen in punk bands at the time. After the demise of Rites of Spring, Fugazi was formed and continued to play until 2003.

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Pure Disgust

DC continues to be run with the same do-it-yourself thought process as it was based on. Shows are mostly hosted at pizza joints, churches, or whoever opens their doors to them. It has grown even more diverse in recent years, with women, POC, and LGBTQ+ members of the community dominating many of the bands. The scene continues to encourage younger kids to join bands and take part, something that’s incredibly rare in a society where most shows are held at 18+ or 21+ venues. Just a handful of contemporary bands include Pure Disgust (featured in NPR’s top 50 albums of 2016), Stuck Pigs, Stand Off, and Protester, with dozens more springing up around them. You can read more about that here.

You can also find paragraphs about the Bad Brains and Minor Threat here.

Thanks to Farrah for the photo of Pure Disgust.

RECORDS I THINK ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN OTHERS BECAUSE I HAVE AN OPINION

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SOA – NO POLICY (1981)

Before Henry Rollins was writhing around onstage fronting Black Flag, he was Henry Garfield, working at Haagen Dazs with Ian MacKaye. He also fronted State Of Alert, along with Michael Hampton and Ivor Hanson, who’d go on to play in The Faith. Hampton would also later join Embrace. Though not as often acknowledged as Black Flag, SOA was pivotal to the DC hardcore scene. No Policy features a whopping ten songs that pack a punch on an eight-and-a-half minute seven inch, writing off cops and girls and addicts ruining the scene. Rollins’ signature hoarse howls are backed by urgent powerchords and sped up drums. The record is raw and underproduced but that only adds to the snarling attitude the band forces on you. It kicks off with a song renouncing drug addicts, a common theme in DC at the time. “Lost In Space” is about being better than someone who’s constantly walking around in a daze and missing out on their surroundings. While a first listen to “Girl Problems” might seem a little sexist, reverse the pronouns and it’s honestly a little empowering. It’s less about girls being fucked up and more about how you shouldn’t rely on a romantic partner to make you feel validated. The song is peppered with fight anthems and shit talking. “Gate Crashers,” a song talking shit about a washed up musician, has the line “your hair’s too long/and so’s your set” which describes the antithesis of the DC hardcore scene. At the time, Rollins had a shaved head and I mean, this record is eight minutes.

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GOVERNMENT ISSUE – LEGLESS BULL (1981)

Government Issue wrote fast, angry songs renouncing the “cool guy” aesthetic many punks had adopted. “Rock n Roll Bullshit” probably sums this up best; John Stabb growls about how he’s sick of the Clash and the Ramones and Supertramp and so on. So what’d Government Issue in response to being bored of what was being handed to them? They released Legless Bull, a pivotal album that helped shaped DC’s punk scene. The EP clocks in at barely nine minutes, but delivers ten songs in that span of time. They’re quick and barely give you time to realize what they’re about, but you can gather the sentiment from the splintering guitar and what few tongue-in-cheek lyrics you can understand. Even when Stabb’s spitting vocals are incomprehensible, the guitar riffs are catchy as they screech over blasting drums. The EP features the original version of “Asshole,” about a dude showing up at a show just to be a dick and starting fights instead of listening to the music. “Asshole” was later re-recorded with Ian MacKaye. The songs on the record flow seamlessly into each other while being distinct enough to play on their own, ending on another song talking shit about stupid trendy idiots, “Cowboy Fashion.”

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FAITH/VOID SPLIT (1982)

“Faith vs Void” is an argument I constantly have with myself. I mean, there’s no correct answer. Both sides are absolutely incredible. Void definitely seem to have a little more of a cult status (I mean, I have the two crosses stabbed into my leg), but The Faith, fronted by Alec MacKaye, are just as crucial to the scene. They’re almost incomparable in their influence, but their combined efforts make this one of the most vital records of the time. The Faith side kicks off with “It’s Time,” which almost sounds like the Stooges played at 45rpm thanks to the thick bass sound. The Faith side may be a little tamer, with generic lyrics about being straightedge and denouncing “cool guy” acts, but their musical quality surpasses their peers with similar subject matter. Alec MacKaye definitely does not hide in his brother’s shadow; his voice is commanding and full of rage. The Faith utilize insanely quick paced blasts coupled with calculated breakdowns, creating a sound not incredibly unique, but definitely well articulated. But where do you start with Void? Where as the Faith lacked originality, Void transcended the bands of their time. Though they had just as much indignation as bands like SOA and Teen Idles, they had a particularly idiosyncratic sound. There’s pounding drums, warped guitar, and what could’ve been too much feedback had they been any other band. There’s a distinctive Sabbath influence in the rumbling bass and singer John Weiffenbach obviously was a fan of Darby Crash, but Void were not like any other band. Void cut themselves loose from the confines of the genre, with taunting lyrics spat out over shredding solos. But I mean, for a band who isn’t going to listen to “those fools, I’m gonna live by my rules,” would you expect them to compartmentalize themselves?

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RITES OF SPRING – SELF TITLED (1985)

Rites of Spring were one of the first bands to shift the hardcore sound away from aggro-tough guy hardcore and steer it towards a more conceptual, melodic genre. Their self-titled clocks in at nearly forty minutes, a real feat for DC punk.  Both this and the Faith/Void split are mentioned in Kurt Cobain’s iconic list of his favorite records. Rites of Spring often reject being labeled “emo,” but definitely have more intimate lyrics than their predecessors of punk. The step away from traditional hardcore is also obvious in the composition of the songs. Instead of searing powerchords and blistering drums over verse-chorus-verse-chorus-end, there’s intricate guitar patterns and structured sections. Guy Picciotto’s yowling voice is almost constantly pleading over the course of the record, emoting more than just the quintessential gruff barks found in earlier bands. Both Picciotto and drummer Brandon Canty would go on to play in Fugazi, another highly influential post-hardcore band from DC that featured Ian MacKaye. The whole album is consistently strong, but a few songs stand out more than others. The third track, “For Want Of,” is lyrically desperate. While before, bands had just focused on fighting and police and what drugs they do or don’t do, this song is devastatingly real in that it describes the feeling of being ready to give up. “All There Is” is almost a love song, twisting with bass that compliments the lead guitar under Picciotto’s hoarse screams. While Rites of Spring as a band reject the “emo” label, they were incredibly instrumental on the conception of the genre.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

IRON CROSS – SKINHEAD GLORY (1982)

SCREAM – STILL SCREAMING (1983)

MARGINAL MAN – IDENTITY (1984)

EMBRACE – SELF TITLED (1987)

FUGAZI – 13 SONGS (1989)

The Replassments, Volume Three

Here’s the third and potentially last part of our Replacements word vomit. Not sure if we’ll do the last two records, but stay tuned to find out.

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TIM – AVALON KENNY

Tim is a sign of the Replacements after finally getting a grasp on that quintessential “’Mats sound.” Coming quick on the heels of Let It Be, the record hangs onto the college rock sound they’d grown into post-Hootenanny. The first half is a little more restrained, leaning heavily on power pop hooks and classic rock n’ roll chords. The second half is the ‘Mats unleashed, with crushingly sincere songs about the realities of love, disappointment, and alcoholism. Paul Westerberg’s stereotypically adolescent anguish somewhat grows up and focuses more on the realization of mortality and working class blues through the lyrics on Tim. The songs take on a new voice, but the themes are still there. Produced by Thomas Erdelyi (better known as Tommy Ramone), the record serves as a segue between Tim and the poppy Pleased To Meet Me.

The opening track, “Hold My Life,” is remarkably more toned down than their other openers like “I Will Dare” or “Takin’ A Ride,” but is still equally enamoring. It shows their transition towards college rock, somewhat amusing as they never attended college and spent a whole lot of time talkin’ shit about REM. It’s another classically heartbreaking ‘Mats song, showing how desperately dependent Westerberg could be. While a little more “mellow” than some previous tracks, the song is still catchy and pure rock ‘n’ roll. Then there’s another rocker, “I’ll Buy,” which sounds like it could’ve been a Buddy Holly or Chuck Berry b-side. There’s twangy guitar, a rockabilly drumbeat, and repetitive, tongue-in-cheek lyrics.

“Kiss Me On The Bus” is another one of Westerberg’s songs with lyrics that pull on your heartstrings. It’s hard to romanticize public transit – where it’s not uncommon to see a hobo’s penis or have to sidestep shit as Anna did last week – but somehow he manages to do it in a desperately longing way. The singer desperately wants to have a public display of affection but his love interest clearly is trying not to cause a scene. But I mean…who wants to make out in a seat that has a 90% chance of being pissed on in the past 24 hours? The song leans more powerpop than rock or punk, and is probably one of the more youthful songs on the record.

Up next is “Dose of Thunder,” whose chugging verses are somewhat recreated in their later song “Shootin’ Dirty Pool.” It’s got a killer Bob Stinson solo, and is probably one of the punker songs on the record. “Waitress In The Sky” kind of sounds like “If Only You Were Lonely,” part two, but there’s a stark contrast with the lyrics. It’s a little misogynist, but I guess we can let it slide because it’s very obviously sarcastic (Westerberg’s sister was a flight attendant). It’s from the perspective of a demanding customer who is disrespectful and an asshole, over a bluesy guitar riff. The loungy “Swingin’ Party” is a kind of depressing reality about not wanting to grow up and continuing to party your life away. Certain verses are almost Springsteen-esque as they discuss being a working class kid trying to make your way through life but being brought down by the routine of drinking and perpetual adolescence.

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But what is there to say about “Bastards of Young” that hasn’t already been said by fans or critics? Easily one of their most recognized songs, it’s also the song that got them kicked off of SNL. It’s lyrically advanced, a depressing anthem of the working class. From the moment that Stinson’s fingers hit the frets and you hear Westerberg’s piercing wail – the song grabs you straight in the gut. The lyrics are agonizingly blunt about the harsh reality of growing up poor in a poor town. The line “income tax deduction/one hell of a function” is a reference to Westerberg’s mom inducing labor so he would be born in 1959 and claimed in that tax year. One of the most heartbreaking lines has gotta be “the ones who love us best/are the ones we’ll lay to rest/visit their graves on holidays at best” juxtaposed with “the ones who love us least/are the ones we’ll die to please/if it’s any consolation, I don’t begin to understand them.”

“Lay It Down Clown” serves as the album’s comic relief amongst the heartbreaking working class anthems and songs about desperation. It’s another rockabilly song, with the background vocals hinting at later Stones records. But it’s nothing compared to “Left Of The Dial” – which is about Lynn Blakey, the college rock sweetheart who played in bands ranging from The Broken Crayons to Let’s Active. Westerberg was so enamored with her that he’d search for her on the college radio stations, and this song relies heavily on imagery and sadly optimistic lyrics. He kind of glorifies her (as he should) through a secret love song. The song could easily have fit on Let It Be stylistically but deserves its spot on Tim, some glimmer of hope between hopeless lyrics.

Speaking of hopeless, the last two tracks are the embodiment of the word. “Little Mascara” is a love story gone wrong. Focusing on an abusive relationship, the guitar heavy song wrenches at your gut. It plays on the weak, codependent aspect of a relationship. Lines like “for the moon you keep on shooting,” showing the endless hope the woman has that maybe he’ll get better, are matched with “for the kids you stay together.” Ultimately, “all you’re ever losing is a little mascara” is one of the most brilliant metaphors for crying. Along with incredible lyrics, the guitar solo is one of the greatest on the record. Finally, there’s the Replacements’ classic “Here Comes A Regular.” Painfully relatable, anyone who ever has been a regular would understand. It focuses on bar culture, and the feeling that you fit in at a bar where people know your name while trying to forget the bleakness of your actual life. Some lyrics are almost sanguine, because you can find someone else who is also a “regular” who will drown their sorrows beside you. You’re stuck in a routine of working and drinking, wanting to feel special, but the only time you feel special is when the bartender remembers your name because you’ve gone to that bar so many times. You’re stuck.

The album is anthemic in and of itself, with such songs like “Bastards of Young” and “Here Comes A Regular” easily being defined as ones’ theme song. It’s dripping with working class laments and the quintessential Westerberg aching depression. Coasting off the high left from Let It Be, it’s the perfect passage between that record and Pleased To Meet Me.

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PLEASED TO MEET ME – ANNA THEODORA 

Not strictly a punk album, not really indie, sort of college rock, mostly rock n roll: Pleased to Meet Me finds itself occupying many spaces at once. To define an album by a lyric may be reductive but “one foot in the door/ the other one in the gutter,” howled over a raucous din on “I Don’t Know” may begin to capture the spirit on the ‘Mats’ fifth studio album. Their only effort recorded as a trio, right after Bob Stinson’s departure, portrays a band pulling itself in all directions at once. Some songs pull towards mainstream radio play, some pull back to the dirty punk origins of the band, and some break new ground entirely.

Before I break this down any further, I’m going to just come out and say that I really like Pleased to Meet Me. Like, a lot. I see where it dulls in comparison to perennial favorites Tim and Let it Be, and I acknowledge where it shines in a way all its own in the band’s discography and as an alternative rock album. I don’t see a band ‘selling out,’ if by that one means they compromise their integrity or creative output. Pleased to Meet Me sounds like a lot of anguish, a lot of heartbreak, and a lot of desperation. The loss of a member and the ongoing substance use and abuse by the band have this album feeling very raw, even as it explores more radio-friendly territory and genre bending. Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic described it as, in many was, “the last true Replacements record,” and I’m inclined to agree on this front. Self-destruction and self-effacement can lend themselves to making great art, but it’s not necessarily sustainable, and in later efforts the band’s shine would be dulled as they for all intents, imploded.

Something seen consistently through the bands first albums and their live persona was an abject refusal to take things all too seriously. The album opener, “IOU,” has Paul Westerberg making sure all the industry reps hoping to cash in on them were aware of that by sneering “I owe you nothing,” while buzzsaw guitars screech in the background. Westerberg seems nonplussed with the idea of material success at best, and having the ‘mainstream album’ start off with a song about how bored he is with dealing with the industry is classic Replacements; flirting with and ultimately denying success. The track that follows is an absolute masterpiece, (“I’m in love with that song”). Paying homage to power pop legend and Big Star frontman in both name and style, “Alex Chilton,” shows off the ‘Mats’ ability to write a killer pop song but to then play it with a aggressive rock n roll edge to make it truly memorable. A band not bound by their influences, this isn’t some rip off of a Big Star song, but something that nods and winks at them while still being completely unique. Chilton himself would end up playing guitar for the Replacements, notably on this album’s closer “Can’t Hardly Wait.”“I Don’t Know” follows “IOU” in it’s nonchalant, unimpressed attitude, an autobiographical song where the band couldn’t really care less about what happens next, expressing that they’re pretty much just fucked regardless.

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I mentioned earlier that this album has a feeling of rawness to it, of desperation and angst and where this comes through most is the back-to-back couplet of “The Ledge” and “Never Mind.” These songs are both really, really dark, and have an inherent feeling of being trapped or stifled. “The Ledge” sounds like someone coming to their breaking point, years of repressed frustrations coming to a dramatic boil. And “Never Mind,” sounds like the regret that follows, as someone tries hastily to put back all of the things they said when they were angry; a task that’s futile at best.

The rest of the album veers back and forth between chaos and  quiet. “Valentine” mixes metaphors between substance use and being in love, not an unexplored way of talking about either of those subjects in rock n roll. Westerberg seems ready to be destroyed by his ‘Valentine,’ knowing that with every good high comes the comedown, intoxicated by the moments that culminate before the inevitable crushing disappointment. “Skyway” is the polar opposite. Westerberg talks about the Skyway in Minneapolis, where it’s so cold in the winter that folks have to travel from place to place via a set of elevated hallways, how the city itself remains so empty and stark, and how the homeless population would seek shelter in the Skyway. The background information on the track paints a stark image of an abandoned metropolis in the dead of winter, everyone’s faces buried in their winter coats as they rush between their homes and jobs. The song uses this stark emptiness to its advantage and places it apart from both the verse-chorus-verse pop dynamics and the raucous chaos found other places on the album. It’s a beauty, but a sad beauty. The seasonal depression of Replacements songs, when not even a blanket of twinkling snow can cover up the feeling of hopelessness.

The album culminates with “Can’t Hardly Wait,” a visceral sucker punch of a song. The chorus builds impressively, with a tasteful saxophone, and sounds incredibly hopeful and excited at first glance. The whole song, down to the unforgettable guitar refrain, seems burgeoning with hope. Later on, a film about the last big party of high school would take it’s name from the track, amplifying the phrase as something nearly giddy. It has that kind of feeling running all of the way through it. Twinkle in your eye kind of stuff. However, a closer glance at the lyrics, or especially at the Tim version shows the darker current running just underneath the glimmer of hope that “Can’t Hardly Wait” provides. It’s a song about suicide; it’s about how you can’t hardly wait for things to get any worse, or even scarier, for them to stay the same. Earlier in the album on tracks like “IOU” and “I Don’t Know,” it seems almost as if the ‘Mats are goofing on an audience who thought they were on the inside of the joke. It’s a retention of the “fuck you” attitude, even shrouded within a pop song. You could look back to the Sex Pistols last concert for the same feeling, with Johnny Rotten sneering “ever got a feeling you’ve been cheated?” into the mic. It’s even better, in that way, to be an exclamation of hopelessness shrouded in hopefulness, where sometimes all you can do is laugh at the “ashtray floors, dirty clothes, and filthy jokes” that have come to comprise your life.

While it may not be an album “about depression” in the sense that it was intended to be, Pleased to Meet Me nearly works as a case study. You can see mania and its comedown, you can see someone throwing themselves headlong into harmful behavior just to break the cycle of numbness, and you can see the cracks that come from being put under pressure in all directions. It doesn’t hit you over the head as a concept album and was by all means not intended to be one, but it speaks to a desolate experience from all angles and definitely helps find comfort in those experiences; ones near universal but deceptive in their way to make you feel isolated. It’s the final installation in our series for a reason — the rawness encapsulated in Pleased to Meet Me could not be recaptured by the Replacements again in their career, and the things that made it so raw and poignant were reflections of the factors that would be the downfall of the band.