Friday, January 13, 2017

Replacements 7: Don’t Tell A Soul

Once again coming this close to mainstream acceptance, Don’t Tell A Soul wowed critics and irritated hardcore fans, in both cases due to the album’s radio-friendly sound. With the help of new guitarist Slim Dunlap, the ‘Mats were able to translate Paul Westerberg’s latest contrarian laments to a decent record.
There’s nothing truly sloppy or stupid here, just layers of acoustic guitars and cracking drums. “Talent Show” is another thinly veiled description of Life On The Road, “Back To Back” several clever turns of phrase piled on top of each other “We’ll Inherit The Earth” is likely where a lot of fans jumped off, thanks to the early ‘70s Moody Blues homage in the furiously strummed guitars and pseudo-sci-fi overtones. But then there’s “Achin’ To Be”, likely inspired by the chicks he saw at various gigs, either onstage or in the crowd, and still one of his best. (Dig Slim’s Stonesy fills.) Less appreciated is “They’re Blind”, a more direct message to the same type of unattainable woman.
Side two crashes into place for those still ready to rock, and “Anywhere’s Better Than Here” is a worthy complaint, and it’s always nice to hear Tommy shrieking along in the back. However, one thing these guys weren’t was funky, and “Asking Me Lies” is a poor bed for more wordplay. But then there’s the moderate hit single of “I’ll Be You”, which would be an important song if only for introducing the phrase “a rebel without a clue” to the pop vernacular. It’s proof that Westerberg could write a hit song, followed up by the throwaway noise of “I Won’t”, and not even good noise. “Rock ‘N Roll Ghost” could also be considered an indulgence, more moody than memorable, but it does foreshadow some of his future paranoia. And while it’s kinda ordinary, “Darlin’ One” manages to provide a decent, epic finale.
Don’t Tell A Soul still gets less love than it should. Certainly compared to their other albums it’s not as striking, and doesn’t clear a room as well as those others, but a little time away from it, while exposing its late-‘80s sheen, proves that it’s “not bad”. The expanded CD doesn’t tip the scales either way, adding some previously released outtakes (including the rockin’ raveup “Wake Up”), a couple of demos and alternate takes, a cover of Slade’s “Gudbuy T’Jane”, and the essential B-side “Date To Church”, seemingly written on the spot with special guest Tom Waits on vocals and Hammond organ.

The Replacements Don’t Tell A Soul (1989)—
2008 CD reissue: same as 1989, plus 7 extra tracks

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