In 1984, the Minneapolis centred quartet The Replacements had recorded two full-length albums and the Stink EP
. They had floundered around the burgeoning independent scene for only a few months when they were signed; though their early albums showed much promise, that potential wasn't fully realized until the release of Let It Be
, still considered by many to be The 'Mats best album.
The first song, "I Will Dare", was released as a single early on in the recording process, and it received favorable reviews. The song has a bright, optimistic shine to it, despite the somewhat tired and bored lyrics by Westerberg, the group's chief songwriter. It even features a guest guitar solo by Peter Buck of REM, one of The Mat's biggest fans.
After that comes "Favorite Thing", another one of Westerberg's classic rock attempts and successes. Here's a shock kiddies: It's a love song. Back in the old days love was still considered a valid subject for the indie crowd. A doubled, harmony guitar solo by Stinson brings the song to a great climax before the simple breakdown.
"We're Comin' Out" starts off sounding like another one of Westerberg's classic throwaway songs, but it comes back around to become another Replacements classic when the pace slows and the pianos come out. The lyrics "one more chance to get it all wrong" echo the views of Westerberg's generation as well as him, and it's a great bold statement made by someone who probably couldn't care less about bold statements.
"Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out" is the albums first "meh" song. It's interesting though, because of the unusual form and its simple, anti-dentite lyrics. Westerberg's trademark vocals turn this song into a fun, jam around type of song.
In the middle of the album comes the second of the album's songs destined to be absolute classics: "Androgynous". Paul whips out the piano and sand blocks, and Mars provides very simple percussion near the end. The song features the tale of one "Dick" and one "Jane", who enjoy confusing genders in the way they dress. While at first the song seems laughably sophomoric, after a while one realizes the importance of its individualistic message.
In a nod to their sometimes almost satirical live covers, the sixth song on the record is "Black Diamond", originally by KISS. The Mats somehow manage to actually improve the song through their annihilation of it. They turn a very cliche riff from KISS into a more rocking one. This also features another amazing solo from Mr. Stinson.
Leading off the second side of the original LP is what some consider to be the finest example of The Replacements on tape: "Unsatisfied". It begins simply enough with a solo 12-string jaunt by Westerberg, but with a quick shout turns into one of the most rousing anthems of disillusionment ever. Paul mumbles, "Look me in the eye and tell me, was you satisfied"" and once again speaks for his entire generation without even trying. It's an incredible song, and the album is worth purchasing simply for this one alone.
"Seen Your Video" begins as an instrumental jam courtesy of the boys, but builds to an anthemic climax once again and pulls itself out of mediocrity. The message is simple enough, as its yet another diatribe against the commercialization of music through MTV. Apparently, things never really improved after 1984 because this song still stands as strong as it did then. When Westerberg hollers, "Seen your video/ that phony rock 'n' roll!" one can still turn on the television and see exactly what he's talking about.
"Gary's Got A Boner" is a fun, punk skank, but opposed to all the other "throwaways" on the album, nothing emerges to salvage it of mediocrity.
"Sixteen Blue" is a tender ballad in the old sixties style. It fits unusually well with Westerberg's gruff delivery, but then again most of the songs you wouldn't expect to fit. Personally, I dislike the song. But others definitely consider it to be an instant classic, so I'll have to put that out there.
The album's closer, "Answering Machine", is perhaps one of Westerberg's most heart-tearing songs. Probably written somewhere close to the middle of nowhere during a dismal tour, it focuses on a miserable disconnection from everybody through poor communication. Taken literally or metaphorically, it's depressing as hell.
With that, the album is complete: in a scant half hour, one is taken on a great journey through the life of a young adult growing up in the shambles of his surroundings. This album is an enduring classic; first in it's field and then overall. This album merits 4/5 stars.