Review Summary: The Replacements' opus.
The Replacements’ skewed and most of all punk version of the more commercial rock around during their existence was unique and singular, and the band became their own separate deity, one that had no imitators. This quartet, which hailed from Minneapolis, also created some of the greatest albums in indie rock history with this style, including Tim
, and Pleased To Meet Me
But with the exception of Hootenanny
, these greats all showed The Replacements in a state of deconstruction: they’d already sold their souls by signing to a major label, band chemistry was worsening with every drunken night that guitarist Bob Stinson experienced, and none of these albums were matching up to Let It Be
, the 1984 classic that showcased the band completely embracing their poppier side, while simultaneously maturing in front of our eyes, to everyone’s complete surprise. It also showed a happier Replacements, one that wasn’t constricted by major labels breathing down their back and with slightly less interband drama.
Everything you’ve read is certainly true: Let It Be
is a ridiculously good collection of strong tunes, with Paul Westerberg’s songwriting and introspective lyrics all at a high here. In essence, Let It Be
is sloppy, catchy garage rock at its greatest, with most songs featuring muscular hooks that lure the listener in while demanding constant replays. However, certain attributes of Let It Be
’s sound--the less-than-stellar production values, the messy but endearing instrumentation, Westerberg’s throaty and decidedly un-commercial singing--give it that hometown-band feel. You can almost imagine it being produced right in your garage.
Westerberg is certainly Let It Be
’s star, with his excellent vocals, which are mostly throaty croons and often resemble Bruce Springsteen at their rawest, and their sheer emotion (as gay as that sounds) make ballads such as “Sixteen Blue” all the more poignant and memorable. He also shines on the amped-up Kiss cover of “Black Diamond”, which drapes the formerly lame song with a curtain of feedback and Westerberg’s scraggly and enthusiastic rasping. Westerberg’s excitement bleeds through onto the listener, and his performance turns what was destined to be a lame filler cover into a highlight.
Most of the rest of Let It Be
is just as excellent. “I Will Dare” is a funky romp that’s simultaneously catchy and messy; “We’re Coming Out” is a blazing exercise in sloppy riffing and ridiculous build-ups and dynamics that’s managed to pave the way for the whole genre of pop-punk, and the slinky guitarwork of “Seen Your Video”, courtesy of Westerberg and (Bob) Stinson, is the pure definition of awesome, from the soloing to the speedy and distorted riffs. “Unsatisfied” is also an excellent track, and is the most stirring ballad on the album, mixing Westerberg’s strained lyrics and vocals with excellent instrumentation courtesy of the other guys; particularly Tommy Stinson’s pounding basslines.
Let It Be
contains its fair share of filler, but the album’s fans tend to claim that this filler gives the album a lighter mood, and, at points, I agree: this album really wouldn’t be the same if genuinely funny tracks such as “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” were removed. However, there’s no getting around the complete suckage that is “Gary Has a Boner”, which is an overly ironic rocker that features lyrics that try a bit too hard to be funny and witty. It’s hard to count an album down for one song, but this one deserves it.
Don’t let “Boner” ruin your own personal Let It Be
experience though; this is truly an album that deserves to be cherished, and is also one where any sort of hyperbole used to describe it seems perfectly justified. Let It Be
is sloppy fun, and truly deserves a spot in your collection.