The Replacements Are Awesome And If You Don't Like It You Can Go To HellBy Dan Weiss
Over the holidays, we'll be posting awesome music documentaries in conjunction with the cool cats at MVD Visual. The first one we've got for you is Color Me Obsessed, which if you couldn't already guess takes a look at The Replacements. Stream the documentary below, and read the awesome essay by Dan Weiss on the 'Mats and their legacy.
No punk band was freer than the Replacements, which is why you never hear them talked about as spearheading some local scene. Sure, them and Husker Dü put Minneapolis on the map concurrently with Prince. But they weren’t part of a movement. They were misfits who covered KISS and Ted Nugent, turning the latter into a song about boners. Punk should only ever be associated with doing whatever the fuck you want, but it’s not; there are rules and codes and all sorts of wack stuff designed to make you strive for credibility. In an alternate universe where nobody thinks about that, the Replacements are king. They’re still kind of king in reality, though they really deserve a logo-and-t-shirt ubiquity the way Ramones and Sex Pistols got. Only the Clash comes near their musical breadth (Did your punk album start with Peter Buck on fucking mandolin?) but the Clash were so formal and neat that their punk associations never had much to do with the sheer dumb anarchy its known for. The Replacements did dumb smarter than anybody had ever done it before them.
People throw around the words “raw talent” well past whenever it lost whatever meaning it had. But “raw talent” is what Paul Westerberg was blessed with when he led the Replacements, formerly the Impediments, kicking and screaming into rock and roll history. “Raw talent” is how his outrageous screeds and messes landed on their musical feet like a cat. A natural with melodies and hooks just like his legendary sideman Bob Stinson was a natural at peeling off guitar leads he didn’t quite understand, Westerberg could affix a phrase like “Fuck school, fuck school, fuck my school” into a chorus and make it more than a two-chord rant. Okay, that one was a two-chord rant. But Replacements records balanced those deftly with not just ballads (shocker) but drum machines, new wave, classic rock covers, classic rock ripoffs, country tunes, lounge piano, saxophone, pirated police recordings, pirated Replacements bootlegs, tender love songs, sexist rants, anti-video videos, lo-fi pop songs, Big Star tribute pop songs, major-label sellout pop songs and Jennifer Love Hewitt romcom vehicle pop songs. They were the masters of everything white and suburban—“White and Lazy” goes another title on the same EP as “Fuck School,” which by the way was called The Replacements Stink—was fair game for a great tune, good parody, or both.
No band this serious musically has ever made themselves out to be such sloppy, self-deprecating assholes. The ridiculous “Hayday” off of Hootenanny opined, “It ain’t gonna last,” but also contained the credo “Go to the party when you weren’t invited.” On their first great anthem, “Kids Don’t Follow,” Westerberg spat “Kids won’t sit still/ Kids won’t shut up” in a cracking voice that sounds like it could either be defiantly on the kids’ side or on the old neighbor’s, banging a broom on the ceiling. It was both—they embodied angst for all ages. They also hated music videos so much that the clip for “Bastards of Young” was four minutes of a stereo playing the song. They also had a lead guitarist who shit in the ice bucket at SNL and had to get kicked out of his own band for abusing everything. All of this fits crazily well into the extra rock-star-ian arc of the Mats’ career, which is kind of crazy to consider that they were just an indie band who broke a little toward the end.
The Color Me Obsessed documentary isn’t for kids who sit still or shut up, as it’s two hours of interviews with people who remember great things about the band. But it has moments even non-diehards can appreciate, like the montage of people remembering Bob Stinson’s costumery—tutu, trash can, “church lady dresses,” big foam cowboy hat. Or people remembering what they caught the band listening to: Miles Davis and Roger Miller for Westerberg, top 40 for Tommy Stinson. They were crazy for Yes and Steve Howe. “None of them were listening to Black Flag” is one of the most memorable quotes in the thing—they were outcasts from the outcast, and yet listening to them today they make perfect sense in the rock and roll tradition, or pop, or alt-rock, however you feel like slotting them. Mostly they did what they wanted, which was both destructive (R.I.P. Bob Stinson) and enlightening: “Androgynous” took on an even warmer glow last year when Laura Jane Grace (formerly Tom Gabel of Against Me!) performed it at NYC’s Terminal 5 with Joan Jett.
Elsewhere in Obsessed: “It’s very difficult for a band to fall flat on their face and get up and do it again and again and again.” The Replacements weren’t afraid of shit. And that's almost as important as the amazing songs they left behind.
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