Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Fashionably Late to the Music Party
Par for the course, I fell in love with the Replacements in late spring of 1989 with my discovery of Don't Tell a Soul. A closeted gay friend of mine who was miles ahead on the hip-o-meter had pushed the band on me. He insisted that their latest album was "suitable to your bubblegum palette." Because he'd hit the jackpot that fall by demanding I purchase The Innocents by Erasure, and because he'd only demanded a music purchase out of me three or four times in high school, I complied with his demands.
The critic at allmusic.com totally shits on this album. In general, I have great respect for allmusic.com, because they generally review things within the scope of that artist's domain. That is, even Debbie Gibson gets 4 1/2 stars for her best album. And let's be honest. If you're the person looking into Debbie Gibson's biography and discography, you probably have some sense of her musical CV. And, odds are, you either like it or know it sucks synthesized ass. Either way, what's most useful to you is not a collection of CDs that have all been given 1/2 star, but rather a sense of what were Debbie's highs and lows. Where did she kick as much ass as Debbie could kick? When did she officially start dialing it in?
For that, AllMusic is awesome, and most of the time they're spot-on.
But when you discover a band well into its second or third act, it's bound to screw with your notion of them. For example, I discovered REM halfway between Life's Rich Pageant and Document. While my cool classmates had heard "Radio Free Europe" and "Rockville" a bajillion times, my first encounter with the band was a much more tightly-produced, carefully-worded pop album with downright anthemic moments. If your first REM love is "These Days" and "Superman," then reaching back for Murmur just isn't that easy.
I tend to find people's claims of musical sell-outs solely because they signed big contracts and obtain high-end production to be akin to idiots who insist Spielberg was a much better director in the low-budget DUEL than once he had corporate financing with JAWS, E.T., etc. Sure, you can see the brilliance and potential in that early film, but once he had money and assistance, it was a different ballgame.
Anyway, if you have some curiosity about those '80s critical darlings The Replacements, better known to the snobbish as "The 'Mats," I insist that your first album be TIM, but I ask you to consider that your follow-up purchase be the album "most suitable to your bubblegum palette": Don't Tell a Soul.
My Top 11 All-Time Favorite Replacements Songs: