Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
  Expert Witness
Books:
  Going Into the City
  Consumer Guide: 90s
  Grown Up All Wrong
  Consumer Guide: 80s
  Consumer Guide: 70s
  Any Old Way You Choose It
  Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
Writings:
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  NAJP Blog
  Playboy
  Blender
  Rolling Stone
  Billboard
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
  Recyclables
  Newsprint
  Lists
  Miscellany
Bibliography
NPR
Web Site:
  Home
  Site Map
  What's New?
Carola Dibbell:
  Carola's Website
  Archive
Venues:
  Noisey
CG Search:
Google Search:
Twitter:

The Replacements

  • Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash [Twin/Tone, 1981] B+
  • Stink [Twin/Tone, 1982] A-
  • Hootenanny [Twin/Tone, 1983] B+
  • Let It Be [Twin/Tone, 1984] A+
  • Tim [Sire, 1985] A-
  • The Shit Hits the Fans [Twin/Tone, 1985] B
  • Pleased to Meet Me [Sire, 1987] A-
  • Don't Tell a Soul [Sire, 1989] B+
  • All Shook Down [Sire/Reprise, 1990] **
  • Don't Sell or Buy, It's Crap [Sire/Reprise, 1990] **
  • All for Nothing/Nothing for All [Reprise, 1997] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash [Twin/Tone, 1981]
A non-quite-hardcore Twin Cities quartet who sound like the Heartbreakers might have if they'd started young and never seen Union Square: noisy, disgruntled, lovable. I mean, with liner notes like "this could have come close to rock-a-billy if we had taken the time," "stole a mess of these words from a guy who's never gonna listen to this record," and "written 20 mins after we recorded it," how bad could they be? Yeah, I know, pretty bad, and anyway, how good could they be? Hearing is believing. Inspirational Verse: "I hate music/It's got too many notes." B+

Stink [Twin/Tone, 1982]
They're young and they're snotty. They think fast and short but play it too loose for hardcore. And they make getting pissed off sound both funny and fun, which is always the idea. Tunes emerge from the locomotion, sometimes attached to titles like "Fuck School," "God Damn Job," "White and Lazy," and "Dope Smokin' Moron," sometimes not--usually it doesn't matter all that much. They even have their lyrical moments. A-

Hootenanny [Twin/Tone, 1983]
Thrashing their guitars or shambling like bumpkins or reading the personals w/musical accompaniment, this young band has a loose, freewheeling craziness that remains miraculously unaffected after three records. They'll try anything--there's even synthesizer percussion on one cut. If the rock and roll spirit is your bottom line, you'll love 'em. But because they play it so loose they do gravitate toward sloppy noise, which means that too often they're more conceptual than a loose, freewheeling rock and roll band ought to be. B+

Let It Be [Twin/Tone, 1984]
Those still looking for the perfect garage may misconstrue this band's belated access to melody as proof they've surrendered their principles. Me, I'm delighted they've matured beyond their strange discovery of country music. Bands like this don't have roots, or principles either, they just have stuff they like. Which in this case includes androgyny (no antitrendie reaction here) and Kiss (forgotten protopunks). Things they don't like include tonsillectomies and answering machines, both of which they make something of. A+

Tim [Sire, 1985]
No songwriter in memory matches Paul Westerberg's artful artlessness, the impression he creates of plumbing his heart as he goes along. Statements like "Hold My Life" and "Bastards of Young" are pretty grand when you think about it, but you don't notice in the offhand context of the tastelessly amorous "Kiss Me on the Bus" or the tastelessly resentful "Waitress in the Sky." So far Westerberg hasn't been touched by the pretension and mere craft that seem to be inevitable side effects of such a gift, and I see no reason to anticipate that he will be. With a band this there, presence is all. A-

The Shit Hits the Fans [Twin/Tone, 1985]
This slop bucket of shit-aesthetic covers from Lloyd Price to X with lotsa BTO/Foreigner/Skynyrd in between was "recorded live at the Bowery, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 11.11.84" without the band's knowledge: "Our roadie pulled it out of some enterprising young gent's tape recorder toward the end of the night." Sound is more than adequate considering, songs mostly good-to-great, overall effect a little unrealized for my taste. I might want to hear them do "Misty Mountain Hop" twixt "God Damn Job" and "I Will Dare," but twixt "Iron Man" and "Heartbreaker" I'll take Led Zep's. B

Pleased to Meet Me [Sire, 1987]
It's no different for Paul Westerberg than for less talented mortals--sooner or later he had to grow up or fall apart. That's why he got rid of Bob Stinson, who threatened to destroy the band along with himself and anybody else within range. But that doesn't mean Westerberg's guitar can extend Stinson's perpetually broken promise to harness the power of naked anarchy. Or that he can altogether avoid the sentimentality inherent in subjects like teen suicide and red red wine. Of course, with almost any other band those two songs would be airplay cuts, but compared to "I.O.U.," "Alex Chilton," "I Don't Know," "Valentine," they're product and filler. For the third straight album Westerberg delivers the goods--grimy, uplifting, in the tradition and shocking like new. No competing rock and roll mortal can make such a claim. If by some stroke he learns to handle maturity, Valhalla awaits him. A-

Don't Tell a Soul [Sire, 1989]
Circa Let It Be, Bob Stinson's guitar was a loud, unkempt match for Paul Westerberg's vocal, only he'd juice the notes with a little something extra and probably wrong, defining a band whose idea of inspiration was crashing into a snowbank and coming out with a six-pack. Especially on side two, the basic guitar move here is much classier: new guy Slim Dunlap plays hooks. On "Back to Back" Westerberg sings "Back to back" and Dunlap doubles a four-note cadence, on "Achin' to Be" Westerberg sings "She's achin' . . ." and Dunlap chimes in two-one two-three--like that. They aren't always so simplistic, but a decade-plus after the dawning of power pop the device reeks of the mechanical--except in country music, where formula is part of the charm, it's tough to bring off without sounding corny or manipulative. At its worst--I vote for "Achin' to Be," which starts off "She's kinda like an artist" and never once slaps itself upside the head--Don't Tell a Soul is both. At its best--the Who homage "I Won't" ("I w-w-w-w-w-won't"), the Tommy Stinson anthem "Anywhere's Better Than Here," or even "I'll Be You," with Dunlap reaching bell-like through serious clamor--it sounds like old times. B+

All Shook Down [Sire/Reprise, 1990]
slow thoughtful rools ("Sadly Beautiful," "The Last") **

Don't Sell or Buy, It's Crap [Sire/Reprise, 1990]
loud sloppy rools ("Satellite") **

All for Nothing/Nothing for All [Reprise, 1997]
I never bought the theory that Warners tamed them--life generally has that effect anyway. But the all-for-nothing disc's selection from the slide made inevitable by Let It Be, which stands beside Wild Gift as Amerindie's very peak, short-changes the wild ("I Won't") and the tasteless ("Waitress in the Sky"); you'd be better off with Tim. The miscellaneous arcana on the nothing-for-all disc, however, are pretty unkempt for a pop band in the process of mastering its craft as it loses its purpose--a blues, a lo-fi proposition, a Disney cover, B sides, what-all. In fact, although or because it's a mess, it's got more pizzazz than either of their two final albums. No "Aching to Be," that's for sure. A-