Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Replacements 1: Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash

The story goes that Paul Westerberg wandered past a basement window from which emanated the sound of a band. Given his skill at songwriting, fueled by years listening to AM radio, and the volatile nature of the Stinson brothers (brilliant but damaged lead guitarist Bob and 12-year-old Tommy on bass), Westerberg took over the operation. Thus began the saga of The Replacements, tied for the bronze position as the most notorious musicians to come from Minnesota.
The band’s first full-length album, released on the local Minneapolis label Twin/Tone, bore the classic title Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash, and crammed 18 songs into 36 minutes. While taken at top speed, the songs aren’t exactly dissonant punk either. “Otto” gamely attempts dynamics and style shift within the same two minutes. Only two songs are longer than three minutes; one of them, the moody “Johnny’s Gonna Die”, predicted the demise of Mr. Thunders by about ten years (musically it sounds like a rip on Fleetwood Mac) while “Kick Your Door Down” belabors what little point it has. Titles like “Shiftless When Idle” and “I Bought A Headache” point to Westerberg’s future as the most cunning linguist of his generation. They’re not all zingers; “I’m In Trouble” (as in “you’re in love and”) might as well be a Ramones track, while “Something To Du” is an ode to crosstown rivals Hüsker Dü.
At this juncture they’re more like their nickname the ‘Mats, short for Placemats, bestowed on them after most shows that began with a couple of actual rehearsed songs and degenerated into drunken, barely remembered covers, instrument swapping and general chaos. Westerberg had a tendency to yell more than sing; he can’t decide whether to speed-spit his way through “Customer” or articulate his come-on lines, and “Shutup” is about as obnoxious as you’d expect. That said, his self-deprecating liner notes equally match the tone for the band’s rise and fall.
Sorry Ma would sell better over time, but with its thin drum sound and reliance on a chorus pedal, most likely wouldn’t get played as much as later albums. The updated CD version sounds pretty good, loaded up with about a half-hour’s worth of live tracks, outtakes, and the hilarious countrified solo B-side “If Only You Were Lonely”, arguably his best song of the Twin/Tone era.

The Replacements Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash (1981)—
2008 CD reissue: same as 1981, plus 13 extra tracks

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