New Replacements vinyl box – The Sire Years to be released on March 29th

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For some hard core fans, The Replacements are the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band. Hyperbole aside, they are definitely one of the most important and influential acts from the 80’s.

The last few weeks have given Mat’s fans a few interesting developments to cheer about. First, Paul Westerberg and Juliana Hatfield introduced the world to their recent collaboration The I Don’t Cares. On March 1st, a new biography by acclaimed rock critic Bob Mehr entitled Trouble Boys: The True Story of The Replacements saw the light of day. Just this past week a new interview in Spin had Westerberg clarify that the Replacements reunion “DID NOT” end with them breaking up again; implying that we may indeed see them reunite in the future. Finally, Rhino records have announced a new vinyl box set – The Replacements: The Sire Years.

The set includes four records the band recorded on Sire between 1985 and 1990: Tim (1985), Pleased To Meet Me (1987), Don’t Tell A Soul (1989) and All Shook Down (1990).

Tim saw Westerberg explore different aspects of his song writing prowess. Songs like “Swingin Party” and “Kiss Me On The Bus” had a more playful ‘house party’ feel that was contrasted by the anthemic “Bastards Of The Young” & “Lay It Down Clown.” Eventually, Rolling Stone would hail it as #136 in their ‘Top 500 Albums of All Time’ and Alternative Press ranked it as 4th in the Greatest Records recorded between ’85 and ’95 list.

Pleased To Meet Me contains some of the most recognized Replacements numbers including their nod to Big Star luminary “Alex Chilton” and the life affirming “Skyway.” The video for “The Ledge” had the distinction of being banned by MTV for its theme of suicide. While Tim still contained elements of the band’s more punk origins, Pleased To Meet Me had moments where you could mockingly envision men in smoking jackets drinking martini’s. Paste magazine ranked it at #70 in their Top 80 of the 80’s list.

Don’t Tell A Soul was the first record to feature Slim Dunlap on guitar after Bob Stinson’s unceremonious departure. In contrast to the two previous more adventurous records, this was pretty much a straight forward rock ‘n’ roll album featuring the Replacements only ‘real’ hit single “I’ll Be You.” Although lacking some of the historical accolades of other albums, Don’t Tell A Soul was both a ‘tongue in cheek’ nod to lack of success while at the same time an attempt to achieve what they so despised. “Talent Show” and “Achin’ To Be” both stand out as highlight tracks.

The Replacements’ epilogue came just as the band was beginning to get mainstream attention with All Shook Down. “When It Began” was nominated for an MTV video award and the LP as a whole found the band nominated for Best Alternative Music Album at the 1991 Grammy’s. Featuring a slew of guests including John Cale (The Velvet Underground), Benmont Tench (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers), and Johnette Napolitano (Concrete Blonde); All Shook Down saw the disintegration of the band in a glorious sounding finale.

Unlike many recent vinyl retrospectives The Replacements: The Sire Years is downright affordable, with retailers asking just over $70.00 for the four LP set. Any indie/alt rock fan looking to include some Mats tunes on the turntable should be extremely happy with this release. However, act quick… the set is limited to 8700 numbered copies, with some pre-orders containing a bonus 7” of “Can’t Hardly Wait” (Tim version) with “Portland” on the B-side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ezra Furman – Perpetual Motion People or The Ballad Of The Distracted Squirrel

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The wheels roll on as I jerk my car to my left to avoid a squirrel bouncing across the road without it giving a thought to its near death experience. I’m not sure if it was too busy to notice me or it simply didn’t give a shit, but it just kept hopping along without so much as a casual look in my direction.

Ezra Furman reminds me of that damned squirrel, and I’m happy about it. Shock, surprise, and from out of seemingly nowhere (ok, it’s his third record… so nowhere is somewhere) he arrives with a record that is cohesive and yet genre hops. The influences are recognizable but like smoke you can see them but never hold it.

His vocal phrasing is like a cross between Gordon Gano (Violent Femmes) and David Bowie while musically there is a whimsical quality that seems to cross early rock ‘n’ roll with the soundtrack for The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Add to this the kind of playful lyrics that would make Jonathon Richman, David Lowery (Cracker & Camper Van Beethoven) or Paul Westerberg swoon, and you get an idea of how difficult it is to place Furman within a defining genre box.

He has a maddening ability to be so direct you don’t know whether to laugh, cry or throw your arms up in rage as his observational storytelling is seemingly both turned inward towards his anger/humour, and outward at people who can’t seem to mind their own frickin’ business.

Take “Body Was Made”, it is both empowering for those who can grasp his refrain and angry at people who judge based on body image. It begins with an understated Modern Lovers vibe and then rips into a solo sax reminiscent of the Spiders From Mars as Furman sings “My body was made this particular way / There’s really nothing any old patrician can say / You social police can just get out of my face / My body was made.”

Like early Bowie, Furman seems to relish changes in identity, except rather than do it from album to album Perpetual Motion People is a record that does it from song to song, and sometimes, within a single song. “Haunted Head” deals with one’s own self inflicted torment. “Can I Sleep In Your Brain” seeks respite from torment with a wish to become co-dependent. In turn, “Lousy Connection” hides themes of emotional distance behind old sounds of Doo-Wop and killer saxophone leads. To a certain extent, Furman makes being screwed up sound fun in his unique version of a poetic stream of consciousness.

What you have here, is an artist who is so into his music that you’re not sure if there is any attention being placed in the here and now. And really… who cares? If he keeps putting out music as fulfilling as Perpetual Motion People, you’ll prefer geek dancing over analysis of muse.

Self Sabotage Genius or The Replacements – Pleased To Meet Me

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Pleased To Meet Me should never have worked, yet it stands tall as a masterpiece. Lead guitarist Bob Stinson was out because of substance problems and the remaining band members were stumbling at best. Paul Westerberg’s songs were all over the map, and still the album is full of such gems that you can hardly tell that they had begun to disintegrate.

Recording at Ardent Studios in Memphis with producer Jim Dickinson, it really shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone that the band sound was less their typical brilliant boozy swagger and more an awesome well practised piece of power-pop. Of course, like his hero Alex Chilton, Paul Westerberg attempts to self sabotage his own career aspirations with tunes designed to be hated. The reaction therefore is that fans and critics alike see it as a ‘sign of genius’ – ‘a change of direction’ and rightfully heap praise.

Jazz and soul undertones (“Nightclub Jitters” & “Skyway”) mixed with punk pathos (“I Don’t Know” & “Red Red Wine”) and the aforementioned power-pop gems (“Alex Chilton” & “Can’t Hardly Wait”) help to create an album that demands devotion.

So it seems strange that since its initial release in 1987, Pleased To Meet Me didn’t see a re-master and reissue until 2008. For vinyl there are only two choices, finding an original used copy, which will cost you $50 and up

Or

the 2008 Rhino reissue on 180 gram vinyl. New and unopened copies of Pleased To Meet Me start around the $40 mark and even get some resellers asking as much as $100. While there is a new Replacements 2015 box out right now, there has been no vinyl release date set as of yet.

Your best bet is to hit your local retailers and see if you can track down the 2008 vinyl reissue while you still can.

Legendary and Under Appreciated! or Paul Westerberg – 14 Songs

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How do you walk away from something as monumental as the Replacements and create music that can be appreciated on its own merits.

You can’t. Ask any Beatle that question… you can’t do it. Everything you do will be judged through the lens of a very large shadow. So now, you have Paul Westerberg circa 1993, nowhere near retirement age with a dump load of songs and no outlet unless he does the unthinkable – release solo records.

This is my theory; even a masterpiece would have been hated by most critics and diehard Replacement fans. Hence the critical under appreciation of 14 Songs the solo debut released by  Westerberg in ‘93.

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It’s a shame because it really is an awesome record that delivers a different kind of observation than anything Westerberg could have accomplished within the band setting. You get a sense of growing maturity as if he looks back at himself and realizes the mistakes that got him to this place. It rocks at times, is confessional and subdued at others, while keeping a wry and sarcastic tone throughout.

Yes I love the Replacements, but I also have a huge fondness for Westerberg’s solo work. So imagine my surprise when I started searching for his stuff on vinyl a few years back, only to discover there was none.

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Until just last year you could only get 14 Songs on CD or cassette. In fact, according to discogs, Sire had not done any sort of re-release since it came out in ’93.

That changed last June when Plain Recordings released 14 Songs on 180 Gram black vinyl with a gatefold cover that had a new design. It sounds great, the packaging is sparse yet cool, and my kids are now familiar with the great sounds of Westerberg as I spin records on Saturday.

You can find it at all your finer record retailers both brick and mortar or online.

Playlist March 22/15

Here is this weeks playlist. I will update the song stuff as I go.

March 22/15 Playlist

1. “Bottle Of Fur” – Urge Overkill

Saturation is one of my all time favorite records, which I am really wanting to find on vinyl, at a reasonable price…

2. “Three Women” – Jack White

Yeah yeah, Lazaretto, great record… not much more you can say.

3. “Freak Scene” – Dinosaur Jr.

From Bug, because Spotify doesn’t have Bug Live, “Freak Scene would kinda be considered the hit, if such a thing really existed for a cult classic. You can pick this up at some of the better record stores out and about, but the special purple splatter vinyl is sold out.

4. “In The Clear” – Foo Fighters

Great record that keeps finding its way onto my turntable.

5. “Born To Run (Live) – Bruce Springsteen

Did a write up on this a while back. Still think “Born to Run” is the perfect classic rock tune.

6. “20th Century Man” – The Kinks

7. “Everybody Makes A Mistake” – Otis Redding

8. “Little Wing” – Jimi Hendrix

This arrived from Newbury Comics last week. Sounds frickin great and is still available here.

9. “Witchy Woman” – Eagles

10. “Can’t Feel My Soul” – Teenage Fanclub

11. “Do You” – Spoon

12. “Crestfallen” – Pernice Brothers

13. “Neither Here Nor There” – Sloan

14. “A Very Sorry Christmas” – The New Medicants

15. “Things” – Paul Westerberg

16. “Crazy For You” – The Dirtbombs

Such an awesome sound on this band, just had to get a couple of their records. Listen and you might agree. If you do click here.

17. “Wild Eyes” – Vivian Girls

Couple years ago I was listening to these guys and thinking how great they were. Finally picked some up on vinyl.

18. “I’m Shy” – The Juliana Hatfield Three

What I said just a few days ago.

19. “Willow” – Said The Whale

20. “Kitsch Trick” – The Seasons

 

Holding history in my hand – The Posies: “I Am The Cosmos”

Back in ’93 I was handed a copy of Big Star’s – Columbia: Live at the University of Missouri. It was my entrance into the world of Big Star. Previous to this I had heard the odd track on my campus radio station as well as seeing numerous references as influences by many of my favorite artists, but I had yet to hear a whole album. One song caught me right away.

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Perhaps the greatest song the rock masses never heard is Chris Bell’s “I Am The Cosmos.” Even for those lucky enough to have heard Big Star back in the 70’s, “Cosmos” was a single that saw only limited release in Memphis in 1978 and certainly never attained (like Big Star itself) national attention. Bell himself would be killed in a car accident later the same year.

Still, like a few other legendary acts (The Velvet Underground, Flying Burrito Brothers) it seems that those that did listen became musicians themselves. By the early 90’s, power-pop was becoming ‘a thing’ and Big Star started showing up as influences for a plethora of alt-rock acts. So as “alternative-mania” was in full 1992 swing Fantasy Records released Big Star’s #1 Record and Radio City as a single CD, and Rycodisc released Third/Sister Lovers. In was at this point that the Posies covered “I Am The Cosmos” and “Feel.” Around the same time Rycodisc also released a compilation of Chris Bell solo material entitled I Am The Cosmos.

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Now, what makes this single of the Posies an important part of music history is what happened the following year. Two students at the University of Missouri asked Alex Chilton if he would be interested in performing some Big Star songs for a concert. With Chilton in Jody Stephens (drums, vocals) also agreed but Andy Hummell refused(bass), which left a hole to be filled on bass, and second guitar for this to be pulled off. Names got tossed out like Mike Mills (REM), Matthew Sweet, Teenage Fanclub and Paul Westerberg, but nothing really stuck until Ardent Records (where Big Star had recorded) founder John Fry pulled a translucent blue single he had tacked to the wall down and gave it another listen.

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That single led to the Posies being asked to fill in for Andy Hummell and the late Chris Bell. Not only was the concert a huge success, but it was also released as the live album already mentioned. Suddenly there was “new” music to be talked about with the old material, and word was getting out. A new generation were looking for Big Star records and finding them… something that didn’t happen when the band was originally together.

Of course this is total conjecture, but that single in combination with the re-release of Big Star’s three studio records, led us to todays Big Star revival. All three records have been re-released on audiophile vinyl with a great special edition of Third/Sisters Lovers being put out by Omnivore Records. Had Chilton not passed away in 2010 it is likely Big Star would have done an extensive tour.

“Cosmos” itself has been covered live by Big Star, the Posies, Beck, Wilco, This Mortal Coil and The Jayhawks to name but a very few. If only I could get my hands on that original single.

Of course that is one Chris Bell song. As for Alex Chilton and Big Star… well, it’ll take a few more posts to cover that.