Artist: The Replacements
Album: Let It Be
Originally Released: 1984
Go to your nearest record store. Preferrably an independent, but given the urgency of the task before you we’re not going to be picky. Rush in through the front door, stride with purpose up to the counter and request in a polite but firm manner to purchase a copy of Let It Be by The Replacements. Once you have handed over the cash (or most likely swiped, tapped and wrapped, these days), return home forthwith. More haste, less speed people.
Walk in to your abode, wherever it may be. Turn on the power to your stereo equipment / computer / other generic listening device. Put the CD in to the appropriate tray. Plug in your headphone jack and position the headphones themselves upon your own noggin in the preferred position. Adopt your listening pose, turn up the volume to a loud – but still healthy! – volume.
Finally, push play.
Now tell me Kurt Cobain wasn’t a fan.
Released in 1984, Let It Be seems to be precisely the sort of album that would have been a monstrous success had it been released ten years later. Utterly ragged yet unbearably melodic, it is chock full of wry observations about life in the margins. The album captures the moment when Paul Westerberg’s songwriting developed into something rounded and beautiful. The music and playing have come along, too since the days of their sloppy hardcore debut, Sorry Ma, Forgot to take out the trash.
It’s the raw passion and desperation that carry the day. Westerberg seems to sum it up in the mini-tornado of We’re Comin’ Out: “One more chance to get it all wrong / One more chance to do it all wrong / One more night to get it half right.” The band feel as though they are living right on the edge. This is the last chance they have to prove what they’re worth. And boy do they prove it.
Following two earlier, largely ignored releases, the album proved to be the ‘Mats critical crossover. Here was the ultimate balance between high and low brow. Just enough snotty, brash attitude to keep ‘the kids’ happy; just enough thought and emotion to please those beyond their adolescence. Where else would you find two minutes of rock n’ roll bluster along the lines of Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out, alongside the wracked, heart-on-sleeve, acoustic-led Unsatisfied and still have it all seemingly hold together (just.)
Westerberg’s throat must have been an open wound after recording some of these songs. The delicate balance between laceration and heart molestation is what brings to mind the grunge phenomenon that was Nirvana. Not only did the Seattle rockers seem to take some cues from the sonics of Let It Be, the whole template seems to be there in some primitive, primordial way. But just when you’re starting to take this album seriously, along comes Gary’s Got A Boner to bring you back down to earth with a bump (and a childish snigger.)
The Replacements went on to sign with Sire records and released what many consider to be their masterpiece, 1985 album Tim. But it was here, a year earlier, that so many fell in love with the ramshackle brand of rock n’ roll that the ‘Mats dealt in to such great effect. As such, it remains to many the record that captures that time in their life; that moment of coming of age. For it is truly a coming of age LP.
Now skip back to the beginning and listen again. If you don’t like it, don’t take it back to the store from which you bought it. Give it to someone else with the good sense to love it in the way that it deserves.