I’m not a total fool. I have a brain capable of rational thought that knows very well that I do not need to hear 100 Replacements tracks recorded before 1982, and by “I” I mean probably you too. But who said “need” has anything to do with it? Keep your neoliberal austerity outta my punk rock, ma-an.
There’s something gorgeously excessive about the way Rhino has stretched the band’s hectic 37-minute indie debut, Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash, into a prestige four-disc consumer item. Bookended by a remastered disc of the original 1981 album and a killer live set at the 7th St. Entry that was recorded for broadcast on KFAI are two full discs of demos and outtakes and practice sessions. Isn’t this the kind of archival packaging we reserve for geniuses like Dylan and the blues legends he ripped off?
Yes, but. The intent here, as premier ‘Mats biographer Bob Mehr says in his sharp, detailed liner notes (which include a thorough oral history of the early years) is to pull the curtains on the band’s feigned slovenliness. The impression the Replacements often like to give was that they just let it rip, got the songs on tape, and said fuck it—not for nothing is one of the album’s standout tracks called “Careless.” But the sheer number of takes alone reveal how purposely unkempt their practiced insouciance was. “Like the band itself, [Sorry Ma] was the product of considerable—if often well-hidden—hard work, refinement, and intention,” Mehr writes.
While the box does offer a handful of new tracks, mostly these are alternate versions of the same songs that eventually made the final cut, being diligently worked through. You might think hearing six not-that-different ways of playing “Shutup” would be enervating, but for me, at least, the cumulative effect was the opposite. This sounds like a band so fired up they’re incapable of stopping. Again, rational brain knows: That means a band that’ll burn itself out. (Shut! Up! Brain!) But if you didn’t know how this story ends you wouldn’t be able to guess it from this.
Look, obviously Bob Stinson isn’t Charlie Parker, Paul Westerberg isn’t Billie Holiday, and what you hear in the outtakes aren’t lost moments of brilliance so much as how boundless a store of bad vibes, snide jokes, youthful energy, and musical invention these guys were drawing from. I was hooked just from hearing Westerberg introduce “Careless” with a Shangri-Las by-way-of New York Dolls intro “When I say I’m in debt you’d best believe I’m in debt: D-E-T.”
Then there’s the January 28, 1981 Entry show, which tellingly does not showcase the band as the lovable (or at least endearingly hateable) fuckups they’d earn a rep as. They sound perpetually on the verge of fucking up, deftly skirting chaos. And for documentary value, Bob announces that he’s spotted Chan Poling and Hugo of the Suburbs in the crowd.
But the MVP on this collection is drummer Chris Mars, whose playing is so persistently unflashy you sometimes forget that he’s the battery this engine can’t run without. Sure you might be listening to hear where Bob’s guitar goes next, or what new lyrics Paul might lodge into “I Hate Music.” But throughout, Mars is what you feel.
Watching the Injections: Elvis Costello Ditches Mystic Lake, Lax Vax Policy to Blame?
Hey Mystic Lake, Elvis Costello ain’t no Jonas Brothers. With just two weeks to go before a scheduled November 4 Minnesota date, Diana Krall’s husband resituated the gig from the Mystic Lake Showroom to First Avenue “due to unforeseen circumstances.” Many are guessing that the cantankerous rocker took umbrage at the casino’s lack of a vaccination policy. (I’m kinda surprised we haven’t seen more artists do this and kinda not surprised.) If I were a skeptic of others’ good intentions (so, if I were Elvis Costello himself), I might also mention that First Ave has about 3/4 the capacity of the Mystic Lake Showroom, and someone might have had an eye on ticket sales. Either way, this will be somehow Costello’s debut First Avenue show. (Oh, and Mystic Lake tickets will be refunded but not honored. Gotta buy new ones here.)
Gully Boys Deserve a Good Weekend
Since the news that the Gully Boys’ van and gear got swiped was e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e this week (good looking out, community!), just wanted to make sure you knew where things stand now. The van is back (but totaled), the gear is gone (check your local resale shops), and a whole lotta lawn care equipment was left in its place. (Has any landscape company recovered a swiped van of their own with amps and instruments inside?) Side note: A local right-wing site we won’t dignify with a link (we’ll call them “the Beta Bois”) called the GBs “an anti-police band” (it’s true I’ve never heard one of them say anything nice about Sting), and accused them of hypocrisy for filing a police report. Apparently wingnut trolls have found themselves a new “If you hate capitalism so much why do you have an iPhone?”