BY MIKE WALSH If, like me, the new Replacements EP, Songs for Slim, doesn’t quite satisfy your hankering for a Replacements fix, you have a few other options.
1. The most obvious choice to listen to the expanded, remastered versions of the Mats eight records released by Rhino/Rykodisc in 2008. All of these disks contain lots of extra tracks, mostly alternate takes, demos, and live covers. For example, the expanded version of Sorry Ma… has 13 extra tracks. These releases sound great too, but that’s an expensive option.
2. Listen to the two songs Paul and Tommy recorded for Don’t You Know Whom I Think I Was, the Replacements 2006 Best Of compilation, “Pool & Dive” and “Message To The Boys.” They aren’t bad songs, but they don’t deserve to be on a Best of compilation. Chris Mars doesn’t play on these songs, although he does sing some background vocals. Not the most satisfying option.
3. Then there’s disk 2 of their 1997 best of All for Nothing/Nothing for All. Disk 1 collects their most popular songs from their major label years, so ignore that. Disk 2 however, is full of unreleased tracks, B-sides, live recordings, and obscure covers. Create a playlist or burn a CD from disk 2 without the alternate versions of “Can’t Hardly Wait” and “All Shook Down,” and you’ve got a new but not great Replacements record. The half-dozen originals aren’t classics, but they all have inspired moments. “Portland” is the standout, although it shares part of its chorus with “Talent Show.” The four covers are fun too, especially “Like a Rolling Pin.” And on the plus side, it isn’t over-produced!
4. Read Jim Walsh’s 2007 oral history of the Replacements, All Over But the Shouting. It’s essentially a book version of Color Me Obsessed, the recent Mats documentary, only with different interviewees. Walsh (no relation) has organized thousands of quotes from fans, musicians, relatives, neighbors, roadies, record store employees, label people (including Twin Tone founder/de facto Replacements manager Peter Jesperson), and the band itself into the story of the band. The book also contains lots of photos and show posters. As with Color Me Obsessed, Paul, Tommy, and Chris don’t contribute, although Walsh quotes them liberally from other interviews. All Over But the Shouting is the first thorough history of the band, and it’s a fun, informative read. It also provides an interesting portrait of the thriving Minneapolis indie/punk scene of the early 80s.
5. Watch the documentary Westerberg co-directed about his 2002 solo tour, Come Feel Me Tremble. Unfortunately, the video and sound quality are terrible. Much of the video was evidently shot by fans, and it’s an example of Westerberg’s regrettable slap-it-together-and-release-it aesthetic. However, Come Feel Me Tremble does have memorable moments: Paul’s rendition of “Can’t Hardly Wait” from his knees with the several dozen fans he invited on stage, the stories about his father and his awkward meeting with Kurt Cobain, his pathetic attempt to record a song in his basement studio in sub-zero temperatures, his ridiculous outfits and ever-present stogie, his one word reviews of the Replacements records, his performance of “Unsatisfied” in a record store, and the undying devotion and affection of his fans. Recommended only for hardcore, highly tolerant fans.
6. Listen to The Ledge podcasts about the Replacements and Westerberg. The Ledge is the work of music historian and blogger Scott Hudson from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Hudson has been producing the Ledge since 2003, and he too suffers from a Mats fixation, having named the show after the cut on Pleased to Meet Me. He has devoted numerous episodes to the band. These two are a lot of fun:
Covers by Paul Westerberg. Mostly from bootlegs of live shows and radio performances. Includes surprises like “If I Had A Hammer” and “Postively 4th Street.”
Replacements As A Cover Band. 19 covers from the expanded releases, All for Nothing/Nothing for All, and live bootlegs.
7. Track down Willpower, the Replacements fanzine from the early 1980s. I’ve never seen Willpower, but several pages of it are shown in Color Me Obsessed. I contacted director Gorman Bechard and asked him about Willpower, but he didn’t know much either. “Those copies [in the documentary] came from fans. I have never been able to find any online. Once or twice I’ve seen them on eBay, but they usually go for a pretty high price.” A web search did not turn up any actual copies, but it did reveal that Willpower was the creation of Bill Callahan, a teenager living in Maryland in the early 80s, who went on to create Disaster, another indie rock zine. Later, he became well-known as the primary member of the band Smog. Willpower is named after an intensely moody song on Hootenanny. If you can find copies of the zine, please post ‘em.
8. Listen to Left of the Dial, a pop tribute to the Replacements. This compilation disk contains 24 covers of Mats songs by obscure to semi-obscure power pop bands. Most tribute albums are a mixed bag, but the quality here is consistently good. The bands approach the Mats’ most popular songs with confidence and affection. These renditions don’t stray far from the originals. The arrangements are simple, straight-forward, and have a presence. The only band on Left of the Dial that I’ve heard of, The Dipsomaniacs, do a crunchy version of “Can’t Hardly Wait.” “Sixteen Blue” by Florapop is another standout. Like all tribute records, you’ll hear aspects of songs you hadn’t noticed in the originals. Not essential, by any means, but fun.
9. You can also track down the highly-regarded Boink!! bootleg on the web. It contains about two dozen alternate takes and unreleased tracks from throughout the band’s history, including tracks produced by Alex Chilton and several from Bob Stinson’s final session with the band in 1986. Boink!! also contains “Nowhere is My Home,” which is probably the band’s best unreleased song.
10. Of course, you can also listen (or re-listen) to the myriad of solo releases by the former band members. It’s all decent. It’s just that their solo material exposes them as mere humans, whereas the Replacements with the late Bob Stinson were more than that. They may shun such accolades, but that version of the band was transcendent.
PAUL WESTERBERG: Mr. Rabbit
EDITOR’S NOTE: This cover of the beloved hare-themed public domain children’s song made famous by Burl Ives is from Paul Westerberg’s 2003 solo record Mono/Stereo. Two things you should know, first it’s one of the best tracks he’s EVER recorded, possibly my favorite. That riff, that voice, that strategically-panned echo. Perfect. Second, the chorus — ‘Every little soul must shine’ — sums up, well, everything that The Replacements ever stood for (hell, everything that punk stood for, everything good, anyway) and why, in the final analysis, we are still talking about them today. Shine on, you crazy black diamonds.