I recently saw a list of videos on YouTube, which someone had titled, “The Replacements: the Greatest Band of the Eighties.” In music journalism, you’ll often find that superlative thrown at the ’80/’90s alternative rock band nowadays, like in this 2014 Rolling Stone piece prompted by a (sort of) reunion of the band: “The Replacements: The Greatest Band That Never Was.” The sub-headline reads: “The Replacements were the most exciting rockers of the Eighties to not hit it big. Can they survive a reunion?” The answer, it turned out, was no (they went their separate ways the next year).
But as the bio at Discogs.com notes, by 2006, they weren’t really the Replacements anymore. (The original, 1979 line-up had brothers Bob and Tommy Stinson, on guitar and bass guitar, respectively; Paul Westerberg handling the vocals; and Chris Mars on drums:
In 2006, the surviving members (without the original drummer Chris Mars, and without Bob Stinson who died in 1995) gathered together and recorded some new tracks for a Replacements compilation.
Anyway, that compilation’s new tracks — “Pool and Dive” and “”Message to the Boys” — are (as far as I know) the last music the band made together. And, at this point, you’ve got to think there won’t be anything more.
Another downside, in my opinion, to the “reunion” — of arguably the Twin Cities’ biggest, musical export after Prince Rogers Nelson:
The band no longer included Bob “Slim” Dunlap, whom I think of as their guitar player (from 1987 to the band’s first break-up in ’91). That’s the time period when their two most-popular records — “Pleased To Meet Me” (’87) and “Don’t Tell A Soul” (’89), and the last one, “All Shook Down” (’90), came out.
Dunlap went on to some minor, solo success with his record “The Old New Me” (1993), with the aid of airplay on college and alternative radio, and the constant churn of touring; In fact, kind of by accident, I met him and his young bandmates (Slim Dunlap Band) before a eardrum-blistering, ’93 show in Cincinnati.
Bassist Tommy Stinson came out with his post; ‘Mats project, Bash & Pop (this 2017 live appearance on KEXP is pretty cool):
I vaguely remember the catchy pop Chris Mars released, like “Popular Creeps” below, from his “Horseshoes And Hand Grenades,” but he’s mainly spent the intervening years as a visual artist/painter. (The linked interview is really interesting.)
Paul Westerberg has had the most successful solo career of them all. Some people might know this single, from the “Singles” (’93) soundtrack:
All of this got me thinking about the great back catalog of the Minneapolis legends. And while I’m not sure if I agree with the Rolling Stone writer’s statement they were the “best band” of the decade, they were pretty darn good (and completely underappreciated)! Publications like Rolling Stone certainly never gave them the time of day when they were a going concern. It’s a shame.
So, if you’re unfamiliar with the band, it’s not really your fault.
Here are a few of their best tunes (I think). Let’s take a listen…
Just one note: I first heard the name “Alex Chilton” because of this song/video (It lead me to “discover” that Big Star’s singer Alex Chilton was also in a much more famous band, Box Tops, of course.)
Here’s the list I “tuned in” to, to get you started (or reacquainted). It rightly starts with “Alex Chilton.”
Essential listening verdict: You can’t understand the story of American alternative music without knowing the Replacements’ music, which should be as appreciated as R.E.M. or Wilco — maybe more.