Saturday, June 6, 2009
Review: The Replacements - "Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash"
In retrospect, and with their breakup 15 years in the past, it’s much easier to stomach the Replacements’ constant evolution and cycles of stylistic departure. One can only imagine some angsty Midwest teenager finding his new favorite band in 1982’s Stink only to hear a different band entirely upon picking up a copy of Let It Be just two years later. It’s certainly a good thing there weren’t online message boards back then.
None of that really matters in this case, though, as Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash is both the Replacements' first album and their best. Sure, albums like Pleased to Meet Me and Tim transcended genres, record labels, and helped birth the fledgling aesthetic of indie rock, but Sorry Ma did more. At a time when “hardcore punk” often meant nothing more than playing as fast and abrasive as possible, the album never sacrificed its pop appeal for throat-searing screams and whiplash speed. While the bulk of the movement was focusing their energy against social norms, the Reagan era, and the established roots of rock ‘n’ roll, the Replacements were writing 32-bar pop songs like “Love You ‘Til Friday” and “I’m In Trouble” to a spanking punk rhythm and grating guitars.
What’s most fascinating is that the band seems the most comfortable on this set of songs than anytime thereafter despite founding drummer Chris Mars’ confession “We were confused about what we were” as part of the hardcore scene. However, it’s certainly easy to understand why. The ‘Mats were playing better than the majority of their contemporaries, and that may have been the problem. From the flirtations with golden-era rock ‘n’ roll in “Shutup” to the confident chops and pop of “I’m in Trouble” to the loungy “Johnny’s Gonna Die” (which would later find itself referenced on NOFX’s “Jaw Knee Music”), the Replacements were somewhat of the black sheep in hardcore’s early years of distortion-and-scream, 50-second gut punches.
That’s not to say the punk spirit isn’t overflowing in every song, though. Songs like “More Cigarettes,” “I Hate Music,” “Raised in the City” and their smile-and-wink to Twin Cities rivals Hüsker Dü in “Something to Dü” harness the youthful rebellion that gave the genre its credibility. The difference is that while most hardcore bands at the time played poorly to distance themselves from mainstream music, the Replacements played extremely well and distanced themselves from everyone.