Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Replacements 6: Pleased To Meet Me

Officially down to three members, The Replacements ended up in Ardent Studios, birthplace of the Big Star albums Paul Westerberg loved so much, with producer Jim Dickinson, who’d worked on Third and also played piano with the Stones. Dickinson’s ability to get music out of substance-addled musicians, plus his early adoption of digital recording technology, made Pleased To Meet Me a strong, if short album.
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” is a hilarious call-and-response summation of the relationship between the band and everyone in the industry who tried to help them; “Nightclub Jitters” shows the more “adult” side of Westerberg with a faux-cocktail jazz backing; and finally “The Ledge”, 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 the anti-TV “Kick It In” deserves further attention. 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.
Yet a decade later, once the Mats’ legacy started getting more love from Rhino, Pleased To Meet Me was the second of their albums to receive a plus-sized overhaul. The Deluxe Edition sported a new remaster of the original album, bolstered by six familiar tracks from singles. Even more demos, some including Bob Stinson before he was bounced from the band, make up a second disc, while a third disc of rough mixes and outtakes includes some otherwise unknown Westerberg songs along with five rarities previously curated. (The rough mixes, which include both eventual album tracks and castoffs, are also included on a vinyl disc, just because Rhino felt like it.) It’s intriguing to hear some early candidates that were discarded once the final lineup was decided, though three mixes of “Birthday Gal” is a bit much. Most fascinating are a handful of Tommy Stinson originals, each of which shows promise, even if none of the verses seem to rhyme in any of them. And Paul really loved “I Can Help”.

The Replacements Pleased To Meet Me (1987)—4
2008 CD reissue: same as 1987, plus 11 extra tracks
2020 Deluxe Edition: “same” as 2008, plus 27 extra tracks

1 comment:

  1. Love this album - nice review. I'll definitely be on the lookout for the new expanded version!