I’ve been listening recently to a set called The Replacements “The Complete Collection.” As you might imagine, it seems to have just about everything the Replacements recorded and released on lp or ep. Don’t ask me about bonus tracks or anything, the draw here seems to be all the discs in track order, from the first to the last. (If you want rarities and alt versions, check out this site.)
I remember seeing the Replacements’ first album, Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash, in some record store when it came out. Great title, for sure, but I’ve never owned it and didn’t get into the band until later, when everyone did. So sue me.
So the other night I was making some food and I started at the beginning. The first song on Sorry Ma is called Takin’ a Ride, and it is mind blowing. First of all, it’s fast. The drums hurtle right at you and the guitars pizzicato and roar and then pulsate like a siren, while Westerberg seems determined to say it as plainly and as quickly as he is able. The effect is transfixing, even if his voice sounds a little like a box being crushed.
This is a tune that starts out sounding like the Clash, chugs like Blue Oyster Cult, suddenly becomes vintage Modern Lovers, embraces the Heartbreakers, and then explodes with some of that good regular rock music from the 70s that bubbles out of the gutter and reaches greedily for the bright lights. What teenage boys in suburbia dream of instead of disco. For a bunch of goofball fuckups, this is some powerfully ambitious songmaking. Tommy was only 14 at the time. Maybe they didn’t know any better.
And it seems like every song on this album is like this, a million ideas and sounds, all of them played as hard as they can, as if this was their last chance. Their only chance. Maybe because it almost was.
PS. One thing about the (digital) boxed set is that it sounds great. YouTube is not nearly as alive. I’m assuming the masters were cleaned and remixed, but in fact after a little digging around it doesn’t seem like much push was put behind this. Whatever. I have it streaming on Google Music All Access, and it’s getting plenty of play in my house. The Replacements albums I did own, Let it Be, Pleased to Meet Me, All Shook Down, came out during my cassette years. Ugh.