Side one is nearly perfect: “I.O.U.” is a powerful opening kissoff; “Alex Chilton” pays loving tribute to the man of the title (who himself appears later on the album); “I Don’t Know” a hilarious call-and-response summation of the relationship between the band and everyone in the industry who tried to help them; “Nightclub Jitters” showing the more “adult” side of Westerberg with a faux-cocktail jazz backing; and “The Ledge” is a truly harrowing monologue by a boy contemplating suicide, continuing for a full minute after we apparently hear the fatal leap.
Side two goes through some throwaway rock that torpedoes further perfection, but the cold opening of “Never Mind” is an excellent development in Westerberg’s education in making records of good songs. “Valentine” is just that, and exactly the kind that a girl crushing on him would love to receive. “Shooting Dirty Pool” stomps through the mix with some admittedly clever lyrics, and “Red Red Wine” is little more than a mushmouthed paean to the beverage, but they’re forgiven for what comes next. “Skyway” is tender, acoustic, heartbreaking and infectious, and a great setup for “Can’t Hardly Wait”. Westerberg had been trying to perfect this song for two years, constantly fiddling with the lyrics, but that classic riff is unquestionable. Apparently it wasn’t his idea to add horns or the strings, but by setting it into posterity, the song was finished for him, and that’s the version that has become one of the band’s most beloved tracks.
Because the tunes are so good, Pleased To Meet Me seems longer than 33 minutes, and there’s more than that added to the updated CD. Along with noisy B-sides like “Election Day”, “Tossin’ And Turnin’” and “Route 66” (as well as Chris Mars crooning a cover of “Cool Water”), we get a few band demos of songs that would go unreleased or retooled. “Photo” combines the better elements of “Shooting Dirty Pool” and “Red Red Wine”, while “Kick It In” has some real promise. Alternate versions of “Alex Chilton” and “Can’t Hardly Wait” provide some archaeology, but overall, it’s one of the few expanded CDs that really does deliver value.
The Replacements Pleased To Meet Me (1987)—4
2008 CD reissue: same as 1987, plus 11 extra tracks