The Sons of No One

Rhino Records completes its reissue series of Minneapolis's "bastard" sons, the Replacements, with four albums spanning the band's decline from 1985 to 1990.

Last week Rhino Records, proud purveyors of our pop cultural history, released CD reissues of the Replacements' four Sire/Reprise releases spanning 1985 to 1990. Those years sadly saw the decline of the group, and while the music becomes increasingly uneven toward the end of their time together, the records (Tim--on which the excellent "Bastards of Young" appeared [mp3, video]--Pleased to Meet Me, Don't Tell a Soul, and All Shook Down) nonetheless contain what is arguably some of their best work. Their influence on rock music--both the then-nascent "alternative" scene and the mainstream--can't be overstated. When bands as diverse as Pavement, Green Day, and Guns N' Roses have sung their praises, one at least gets a sense of their broad appeal.

The best thing about the Replacements for these acts (not to mention several of the bands I've been in) was their relatability. The were a true band's band. In their earlier works one can almost feel the youthful camaraderie that pervaded their rowdy, silly, and often slap-dash lo-fi tracks. They had a keen sense of self-deprecatory humor, and their intent as musicians thankfully didn't seem to extend much further than having a good, intoxicated time. As the group evolved, however, they dealt with not only the natural progression into maturity but the demands implicit in producing music for a major label. The insecurities and vulnerabilities of these growing concerns found refuge in their music, but they never completely lost their tongue-in-cheek swagger. Of course they made plenty of mistakes along the way, but that only adds to their relatability. Friendships fell apart, members were replaced, and lead singer and principal songwriter Paul Westerberg brought in studio musicians to record most of their final album. Not cool.

But their body of work speaks for itself. The Replacements wrote loving anthems for the downtrodden, the underdogs--precisely those who rock and roll, at its purest, is for and about.

TMN Editor Erik Bryan is living the dream. He grew up in Florida, but he’s from all over. He likes playing chess, making cocktails, smarting off, and not freezing to death in Brooklyn, where he currently resides. More by Erik Bryan

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