The Over/Under: The Replacements

replacements540d2When Matt Hickey started writing for MAGNET in 1994, he made the mistake of mentioning how much he loved the Replacements. From that point on, he was Replacements Boy. He reviewed pretty much every ex-Mats-member solo record and interviewed everyone who’d ever been in the band, with the exception of Bob Stinson and Steve Foley. (Sadly, neither is doing interviews these days.) So it fell to him to create this Mats argument-starter. Enjoy. (The selections are in vaguely chronological order.)

:: The Five Most Overrated Replacements Songs
1. “I’ll Buy” (1985)
Tim is arguably the best Replacements record, so given the quality of its greatest songs (“Hold My Life,” “Bastards Of Young,” “Left Of The Dial,” “Little Mascara,” et al), “I’ll Buy” is pretty weak in comparison. Some iffy Paul Westerberg lyrics (“Talkin’ about some pictures, now wouldn’t that be a scream/Movies are for retards like me and Maybelline”) and a middling melody don’t add up to much. It’s better than “Dose Of Thunder” and “Lay It Down Clown,” but how could it not be?

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2. “Can’t Hardly Wait” (1987)
Huge disclaimer: “Can’t Hardly Wait” is one of my favorite Mats songs. But Pleased To Meet Me producer Jim Dickinson adds horns that one might charitably dub unnecessary, and the overall slickness of this take scrubs a bit too much of the yearning out of a classic Westerberg yearn. The rocking Tim-era outtake on 1996’s All For Nothing/Nothing For All “best-of”/rarities compilation just might top it, and the acoustic version (from the same session, available on the recent Tim remaster) certainly out-aches it. I might even prefer the The Shit Hits The Fans version, but I can’t remember the last time I played that cassette (or any other).

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“Can’t Hardly Wait (Tim Version)”:

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“Can’t Hardly Wait (Acoustic)”:

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3. “Shooting Dirty Pool”/”Red Red Wine” (1987)
As with “I’ll Buy,” this selection is largely contextual; these songs have their charms, but following “Never Mind” and “Valentine” and preceding “Skyway” and “Can’t Hardly Wait” on Pleased To Meet Me, they’re relative duds. I recall Westerberg saying something to the effect that he wrote stuff like this to satisfy the headbanging jones of bassist Tommy Stinson and his brother, the late, booted guitarist Bob Stinson. With only Tommy around by this point, maybe Westerberg should’ve included just one. (I’d pick “Shooting Dirty Pool” in what isn’t exactly Sophie’s Choice.)
“Shooting Dirty Pool”

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“Red Red Wine”

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4. “Merry Go Round” (1990)
I bought All Shook Down (a.k.a. Westerberg’s First Solo Record) the day it was released, drove home as quickly as I could, cracked open the first of many of that night’s beers and eagerly popped it into the CD player. I needed the rest of those cold ones to get over my disappointment. “Merry Go Round” kicked the record off on a decidedly non-rousing note, striking me as a bit dull for an opener (though I’ve always loved the “Hush is the first word you were taught” line). I like it a lot more these days, but my disappointment then was palpable. I felt like I was hearing my favorite band gasping its last breath. I’m not glad I was right.

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5. “Message To The Boys” (2006)
One of two new “Mats” songs—Westerberg and Stinson are the only members that played on it, though drummer Chris Mars contributed backing vocals—from the Don’t You Know Who I Think I Was? “greatest hits” LP. The prospect of new material was exciting to many fans, but the forgettable “Message” isn’t really the Replacements. Then why is it on this list? Because it’s my list.

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:: The Five Most Underrated Replacements Songs
1. “Nowhere Is My Home” (1986)

The inclusion of “Nowhere Is My Home” on Tim (the tune was put to tape during aborted sessions with Alex Chilton a few months before Tim was recorded) might’ve ended the discussion of where the LP stands vs. the rest of the Mats’ catalog. (“Nowhere” originally was on the Boink!! compilation before showing up on the remastered Tim.) The song has a great riff, an increasingly urgent vocal and a cool, controlled solo that sounds like Westerberg handled it, maybe on a day when Bob wasn’t in the studio. Right up there with “If Only You Were Lonely” (also originally on Boink!! and now on the Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash reissue) as undeservedly left off proper albums.

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2. “Rock ’N’ Roll Ghost” (1989)
I have no proof that this spare tale of self-reflection from Don’t Tell A Soul is about Westerberg’s remorse for kicking Bob out of the band and presaging his passing, but the lyric “Well, you said he’s better off dead/You think that I might have heard a word/But I was much too young and much too cool for words/Look at me now” makes me believe he at least somewhat inspired it. When Westerberg later sings about seeing the titular spirit in the mirror, the effect is, well, haunting.

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3. “The Last” (1990)
In typically brilliant Westerberg fashion, “The Last” works both as a farewell to booze and as a plea for love. Dominated by Westerberg’s doleful piano, All Shook Down’s final track sounds unlike anything the band ever did but nonetheless serves as a fitting epitaph.

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4. “Satellite” (1991)
Tommy’s only solo Mats songwriting credit and vocal, “Satellite” first appeared on the Don’t Sell Or Buy, It’s Crap promo in ’91, then on Nothing For All. Unsurprisingly, Stinson comes across as a sort-of Westy Jr., but this über-catchy tune has a rock ‘n’ roll spark that’s sorely missing from most late-period Mats product.

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5. “I Don’t Know” (1996)
A bit of a cheat, perhaps, given that this goof-off take of the great Pleased To Meet Me tune is a hidden bonus track on Nothing For All and isn’t exactly a finished product. Still, Westerberg crazily meowing and singing “I’d like to hear some guitar/So you can turn it up anytime now” cracks me up on every listen. A clearly sloshed Tommy shouting “Richard!” as the music peters out is the perfect capper. I picture the band collectively puking right after that.

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39 Comments

  1. Posted February 17, 2009 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    I’m pretty sure Bob played the solo on “Nowhere Is My Home”. It’s very much his style.

  2. DiRK
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    I love “Waitress In The Sky” and think it is totally underrated. One of the funniest songs ever recorded and an absolute classic IMHO!

  3. tom
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    I just played the Tim remaster the other night and thought Nowhere is my Home is great! Strange then that I see this article a day later. And, by the way, will everyone stop bashing All Shook Down. It is a great record! Get over it.

  4. Dane
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Most UNDERrated ‘Mats song….. “If Only You Were Lonely”.

  5. Doug
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the excellent overview of the overrated/underrated ‘Mats songs.. You’re right on the money with the ‘overrated’ list and I agree whole-heartedly about the horns almost ruining one of their better songs, “Can’t Hardly Wait”.. I prefer the bootleg version as well – since released on the expanded CD. And “Shooting Dirty Pool”.. talk about lame! It’s hard to believe that it belonged to one of the best ‘Mats records ever… It always sounded WAY too forced… like Bob said “we need a ROCKER dude!”

    I slightlly disagree with your underrated list a bit though.. The fellow above me is right on the money with “If Only You Were Lonely.” I also like “Go” from ‘Stink’ a lot too. I’m not a big fan of either ‘Don’t Tell A Soul’ or “All Shook Down” and don’t feel that any tunes should make the underrated list here either. I’m also partial to “Like A Bowling Pin,” they’re drunken spur-of-the-moment anthem from ‘Don’t Sell Or Buy, It’s Crap.” Lastly, “Shifltess When Idle” also comes to mind as a true ‘Mats classic!

  6. Pat Dull
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    Check out the rockin’ demo of “Raised In The City” on the Remastered “Sorry Ma” CD. The original version, dumped as it is at the end of the LP, allows the riff to be completely buried under the arrangement. The demo version puts the riff right up on top, and it is flawless. May be my favorite Replacements song (this week!).

  7. Brendan H.
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    Good article, man. And here I thought I was “Rock ‘N’ Ghost”‘s only fan for all these years.

  8. Mike S.
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 4:12 am | Permalink

    Great job, Matt! That’s definitely Bob Stinson all over Nowhere Is My Home. The best version of Can’t Hardly Wait I’ve ever heard anywhere is from When The Shit Hits The Fans, though I have no idea why they didn’t keep the Tim version for PTMM. Side B of PTMM could have included the Tim version & Nowhere Is My Home as a replacement for Shooting Dirty Pool (I’ll never get over Westerberg’s guitar tone on that one).

  9. ted
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Hmmm… I don’t think that Tim can be “arguably” their greatest record if, as you write, it has three bona-fide klunkers on it (and I agree that they’re klunkers, especially Lay It Down Clown)… those three ruin what’s otherwise a perfect album, only it’s not perfect.. because of those three.

    Other thoughts: I don’t think that ANY version of “Can’t Hardly Wait” can be considered overrated simply because the song is just that good. And while the PTMM version may not be the best, it’s amazing in its own right.

    Good picks otherwise… For underrated I would add “Asking Me Lies,” “Heyday,” “Raised in The City (especially the demo version!),” and “Buck Hill.”

  10. johnnywhassup
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Overlooked and underrated Mats song: “Go” from the Stink ep. After all the silliness and hardcore overkill of this record, this song, with so much raw emotion and heartache (not to mention some devastating guitar licks from Bob), make this a standout track on a record that is otherwise punk-by-rote.

  11. Posted February 18, 2009 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    The most OVERrated Mats tune?
    “Talent Show” … get it?

  12. Cari
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Excellent list. “Nowhere is My Home” is the greatest Replacements song ever; it has been woefully ignored for too many years. Although “Rock and Roll Ghost” deserves a mention , I think that “Go” would have been a better choice.

  13. Mike
    Posted February 20, 2009 at 4:45 am | Permalink

    “Go” is a great choice for underrated tunes, and if I had to pick something off of the last couple of records (which I’ve never much cared for-big surprise), I’d take the modest and charming “One Wink at a Time.”

    However, my favorite underrated (or maybe underappreciated) Mats tune might be “Willpower.” It’s one of their first big departures, Chris and Tommy move the spare arrangement along wonderfully, Paul sings the hell out of it, and of course Bob comes crashing in with a typically out-of-this-world solo.

  14. karl
    Posted February 21, 2009 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    One of the best,and probably the most haunting song Paul has ever wrote,is “The Ledge”. The lyrics are just incredible. Go to “Man without Ties” and read the lyrics.
    “Attitude” cracks me up every time.”Pool and Dive” is great..gets better every time.”Hey good Lookin’ “(fast outtake) is wonderful.On and on and on guys. Oh, i almost forgot I.O.U. That song makes you go pure air guitar.I use a nine iron though.

    “Merry go Round” is,sometimes,a yawn fest.It’s very hard to pick BAD Westerberg songs. “Pleased to Meet Me” is my favorite album. “All Shook Down” is very underrated and “Let it Be” sounds like it was recorded inside a tin can.Great album,don’t get me wrong,but “Gary’s got a Boner” and the Kiss cover diminish the disc just a tad bit.One is silly,the other not written by Paul. i’m tired..got the Nighttime Jitters.

  15. Posted February 23, 2009 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    ist definitely underrated.

  16. thomas
    Posted February 23, 2009 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    all shook down, the nothing for all version, is definitely underrated. that´s what i wanted to say

  17. Posted February 24, 2009 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Two dead giveaways here:

    1) Only a true fan would know about, much less love, Nowhere is My Home, one of the best examples of the ‘Mats ragged brilliance. PS: Bob did the solo.

    2) Only a late-comer fan would fully exclude songs from “Sorry Ma”, which, as everyone knows, is the best, truest document of the Replacements.

    Extra points for giving props to the Shit/Fans version of Can’t Hardly Wait, which has some of the best ‘Mats guitar solos ever recorded.

  18. Posted February 26, 2009 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Would you believe I don’t currently have “Tim” on my iPod? That’ll change today as I sit here listening to Stinson shredding.

  19. Timmah
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Why does everyone pick on “I’ll Buy,” “Dose of Thunder,” and “Lay It Down, Clown”? Sure, “Nowhere Is My Home” and “Can’t Hardly Wait” are both better, but those songs help make the album, in my useless opinion. “I’ll Buy” has some of Bob’s best guitar and a commanding Westerberg vocal, along with a spot-on band performance and a nice bit of grit to it. “Dose of Thunder” and “Lay It Down, Clown” also have these things (plus some great piano and hilarious backing vocals on “Clown”). Oh and both songs are about probably about hard drugs, an aspect of the band that most fans would rather overlook in favor of the soulful stuff and the jokey stuff. Seems many Replacements fans want to lose these songs, but to me, they just give you a fuller picture of the band. Would be very sad if we lost these.

  20. WhikseyTango
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 12:12 am | Permalink

    Portland!

    Way underrated

  21. ted
    Posted March 4, 2009 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    If TIM lost (either) “I’ll Buy” or “Dose of Thunder” (take your pick) AS WELL AS “Lay it Down Clown” and subbed it with “Nowhere Is My Home” and “Cant Hardly Wait” there’s no question that it would be the best ‘Mats album ever ever ever ever… wow, gives me the shivers just considerin’ it!

  22. ted
    Posted March 4, 2009 at 1:40 am | Permalink

    To steal an idea from Chuck Klosterman, here are the five most accurately-rated Mats songs:
    1. Can’t Hardly Wait: It’s generally accepted that while the song is genius, and both versions are great, the unreleased Tim version is slightly better. No one really disputes this, and it’s certainly a true statement, so it’s accurately rated
    2. We’ll inherit the Earth: For the most part, people think that this song blows. Noone really disagrees on this. Accurately-rated.
    3. Bastards of Young: People generally love this song. There’s no asshole at the party trying to drunkenly convince you this tune sucks. We all love it and live by it. Accurately rated.
    4. Kick your Door Down: People are generally split down the middle on this, and for good reason: it’s not great, and it doesn’t suck either. So pretty much it’s controversy is well deserved and accurately represented.
    5. Fuck School: No one is gonna put this on the top of their list, and it’s pretty obvious that Paul probably wrote it in all of five minutes, yet at the same time, I defy you to find one Mats fan who could live without it. So put it in the “Essential but overshadowed” column and call that sucker accurately rated.

  23. Posted March 12, 2009 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    I always thought that “Taking A Ride” was pretty underrated. What a crash bang of a lead off track.

  24. Posted March 13, 2009 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    You’re Getting Married aka Please Don’t Get Married. There are a few versions floating around, including the one from the recent reissue (I believe they put it on Stink). That’s the most underrated song by the Mats IMHO.

    For solo, I’d say Tears Rolling Up My Sleeves is one I’ve never heard live and think is a great one.

  25. Raindog
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Anyone who resents “Gary’s Got A Boner” either does not understand this band or first hear the Mats after Bob left…damn you.

  26. Jeff
    Posted March 18, 2009 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    I gotta tell ya,as someone who was around to see the birth of The Box Tops AND The Replacements,the Pleased To Meet Me version of Can’t Hardly Wait makes perfect sense.Y’all love Big Star cuz Paul said so,but BET me that he loves The Box Tops just as much.The strings and horns take a fantastic song and turns it into one of the five finest records ever made….by ANYBODY.Hell,even Mr. Chilton went back to this style on Hot Thing.Can’t Hardly Wait is like My girl by The Temptations…I’ll NEVER get sick of hearing it,and it gives me a thrill every time.Thank you Paul!!

  27. boxwine_in_hell
    Posted March 24, 2009 at 2:44 am | Permalink

    No Replacements songs are really overrated in my opinion so I’ll give you a couple of underrated.

    I Hate Music
    -At the beginning when someone says “Tape’s Rolling” and Paul says….”So What.”… it cracks me up even after I’ve heard it thousands of times. Also the lyrics “I hate my father/One day I won’t” hints at the brilliance and sophistication that Westerberg will attain as a songwriter in the future and it gives me goose bumps thinking about it.

    Nobody
    -Start to finish this is just a masterful song lyrically and musically. Some of the greatest and profound lyrics ever penned. The song manages to be alternately humorous and melancholy. Full of anger, indignation and empathy all to a catchy beat. Reminds me of some Elvis Costello songs in that regard. “Knees quake there aint a shotgun in the place/You like the frosting/You just bought the cake/Your eyes can’t fake?/Still in love with nobody/And I won’t tell nobody” And later in the song with the infamous Westerberg howl….”And your still in love with nobody/And I used to be nobody.” It’s a perfect song and very much underrated probably because All Shook Down is somewhat reviled by a lot of Mats fans.

  28. Posted March 27, 2009 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    I will dare to stick a link here to my just-penned list of underrated Replacements songs. A reunion really is a moot point with all of Westerberg’s great solo albums since, but nostalgia is a tough emotion to fight for all those sorta-grown-up fans. Including moi.

  29. Mike N
    Posted April 12, 2009 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Seeing the ‘Mats at First Ave in the 80s was truly an experience! Certainly they were extremely lit for all of their shows…and their version of Hello Dolly was hilarious! The most underrated songs by the ‘Mats are INHO:
    1. If Only You were Lonely
    2. Go
    3. Can’t Hardly Wait (Tim version)
    4. Kids Don’t Follow
    5. Sixteen Blue
    6. Here Comes a Regular
    I still cannot believe that I used to run into Tommy at Oarfolkjokepus quite often before Pleased to Meet Me…ugh…where did the time go???

  30. Posted May 4, 2009 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    This is by FAR the best Replacements album. It is VERY underrated.

  31. Posted May 4, 2009 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Hootenanny in E…. That was cut off…

  32. David LePage
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Subway/Can’t Hardly Wait – the two greatest back-to-back rock songs on an any album- yes, they are overproduced, but their greatness cannot be denied.

  33. Posted May 27, 2009 at 4:29 am | Permalink

    Nightclub Jitters, God Damn Job, The Last, Attitude, and Nobody.

    All Shook Down is my favorite MATS album. No contest. And no popular MATS song is overrated. 🙂

  34. Reggie Slak
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Around 1985, Westerberg and the boys dropped off a bunch of “Tim” demo albums at a college radio station in Lincoln, Nebraska. I was lucky enough to get one from my friend who was a volunteer DJ. That was my first ever exposure to America’s best band. Now, since I am partial to the Tim album, “Bastards of Young” gets my nod for most under-rated Mats song. The song is loaded with social referencing about late baby-boomers and gen-Xer’s: “No willingness to claim us, You got no wars to name us.” Strong lyrics such as these got me hooked. As far as simply a great sounding song, and I realize it was a Westerberg solo effort, I can’t get enough of ‘Silver Naked Ladies.”

  35. Reggie Slak
    Posted March 12, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    I omitted “Lovelines” off of the “Hootenanny” album. It is absolutely the purest rockabilly song since the Stray Cats. The lyrics are hilarious… “Turn the lights off.”

  36. Old dude
    Posted March 13, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    Kids Don’t Follow. Fuck My School.

  37. d
    Posted November 21, 2010 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    I love the mats take on black diamond, like a rolling stone (pin), and ANOTHER GIRL ANOTHER PLANET.

  38. zoid throckmorton
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Only total dweebs (read: rock critics) think about this kind of crap. “Most overrated” implies that people who actually ENJOY music sit around micro-analyzing it like this writer. In order to present himself as a consummate expert and enjoy a sense of intellectual ownership over the work maybe? I don’t know. All I know is that finding reasons that “I’ll Buy” or “Can’t Hardly Wait” are ‘overrated” is an absolute fool’s errand. They are rated highly because they are fucking classics. This and other flailing critics might take a lesson from the seated fellow in the Bastards of Young video, meaning SHUT UP AND LISTEN.

  39. T
    Posted May 6, 2011 at 2:55 am | Permalink

    Shiftless When Idle and We Know The Night two amazing underrated songs

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