1. You’re forgiven if you think that Let It Be is better than this. And by Let It Be, I am, of course, referring to the Replacements’ album. You aren’t forgiven if you think the Beatles album with the same name is better than this.
2. In a more-perfect world where my opinion actually mattered a little bit more, I’d be in front of a podium with a bunch of microphones attached to it, the occasional flash from a camera – you know, the whole paparazzi works—and I’d have some moving speech that opens with “I have a dream…of a world where more people know about Tim.” It would be a moving speech met with a standing ovation, roars of applause, eager nods of approval. Of course, I’ve come to terms with the fact that this grand dream of a speech of a dream is unlikely to ever happen and this review is about as close to it as it gets. This is the height of college rock. Murmur might have “Radio Free Europe,” but this one has “Bastards of Young.” The Queen is Dead might have “I Know It’s Over,” but this one has “Here Comes a Regular.”
3. Now, there’s a key reason why Tim–and to a broader scope, the entirety of the Replacements’ discography excepting “I’ll Be You”–has mostly fallen out of public view. It has nothing to do with the terrible oddity of a cover that they decided to go with. It has nothing to do with the perceived production problems; and I write “perceived” because I have no problem with it. It has nothing to do with the fact that their contemporaries (the Cure’s, the R.E.M.’s, the Sonic Youth’s) had longer lasting careers. It has nothing to do with the fact that other contemporaries (Pixies, the Smiths) have found their way into soundtracks for famous films (Fight Club, 500 Days of Summer respectively). It has nothing to do with the fact that there was no real single to be found on Tim. It has nothing to do with the fact that Paul Westerberg’s gruffness might sometimes be completely incomprehensible (what the hell is he saying on “Bastards of Young?”). It has nothing to do with the fact that the Mats stumbled onto stage drunk and bombed their Saturday Night Live performance. Like they Lana Del Rey-ed decades before Lana Del Rey. These things are incidental.
What matters is that they’re so damn sad. Can you imagine a world listening to “Here Comes a Regular?” There isn’t enough Prozac in the world to stop the ensuing depression epidemic. Moreover, Prozac wasn’t even on the shelves by 1985, so you can say that the world simply wasn’t ready for the Replacements.
4. To the people who write “Dose of Thunder” and “Lay It Down Clown” off as filler, let me ask you this: what did you do about “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” and “Gary’s Got a Boner?”
5. I mean, the outro of “Lay It Down Clown” with its “Kizza Me” piano, is almost as intense as the last thirty seconds of “Bastards of Young.” Almost. Sort of. Okay, not really, but kind of?
6. ”Hold My Life” is no “I Will Dare,” I’ll give you that much. But you know what? Nothing is, so the comparison is moot anyway. What really matters is how profound a statement “Hold My Life” is; the chorused “Hold my life because I just might lose it” is a testament to Paul Westerberg’s ability to sneak the most depressing lyrics into songs that really have no business being depressed. “I Will Dare” was the same, with its “Fingernails and a cigarette’s a lousy dinner,” but that one had an overarching romance to it. This one really doesn’t, and those guitars are barely able to hold a line like “If I want, I could die” back. Of course, he finishes that thought with “…my hair” and the word “die” is actually “dye” but it comes after what feels like a full minute.
7. My second favorite track is one that people tend to gloss over rather unfairly, I think. I mean, both “Kiss Me On The Bus” the Scott Pilgrim of songs (as in, too cute for words), and “Bastards of Young,” from the opening “AHHHGHGHGHFHHH!” – the anthem to end anthems – are great, sure, but the best example of Paul Westerberg’s maturation as a songwriter on Tim from the “uni-dimensional” (Bill Janovitz, allmusic) one of Sorry Ma, comes in “Waitress in the Sky.” It’s the one where Chris Mars’ drumming resonates—regardless of its simplicity—and the added handclaps give the track a dance-y kinesis that none of the other tracks have. The Replacements’ greatest strength wasn’t in bringing the power in power pop. It was to absorb as many forms of music as possible and spit it out with their own identity.
Have you heard these lyrics? How Westerberg manages to call a garbage man and a janitor, a “Sanitation expert and a maintenance engineer” respectively, fitting in with rhyme and rhythm, is nothing short of genius. Because a flight attendant really is nothing more than a waitress in the sky (well…they do have to meet a certain height requirement in order to store the luggage in the overhead compartments, but that’s besides the point). You know what it says in my resume? Information Technology – Master Data Management. Do you know what that means? Data bitch.
8. In my opinion, Tim bests Let It Be because the band—not just Paul Westerberg—were at their peak in terms of melody. Like, notice how the wild guitar solo of “Hold My Life” shifted and led us into the chorus? But the best example comes in “Kiss Me on the Bus,” probably because Westerberg’s vocals are incredibly clear (not to mention cute or catchy or captivating or other positively valent c-words that I can’t think of), “Ooh, if you knew how I felt now / You wouldn’t act so adult now / Hurry, hurry, here comes my stop / Kiss me on the bus.” Listen to that jangly guitar riff (it usually comes after Westerberg’s “Oooon the bus”) that swings in and out, propelling the song along. Even Mars’ drumming in the chorus, seen as it enters with the “Kiss” lyric, has a surprisingly lyrical (melodic) quality to it.
9. The great mystery of the world is how “Left of the Dial,” a love song to both Angie Carlson (of Let’s Active, though this is never explicitly stated, so it could be your love song to whomever you’d like) and, more obviously, to college rock radio, was omitted from Rhino’s box set Left of the Dial: Dispatches from the ‘80s Underground. THEY HAVE THE SAME NAME!
10. Now, one of the greatest qualities of writing for yourself and not a publication is that you can go about it personally. One of the sillier things about our education system is that they taught us never to use first person when we’re writing essays. Sentences like “I believe that this is true” were changed to the more absolute and less-bias-showing “This is true.” Bullshit. As if. As if the everyday person would open up an essay—or in this case, a review—and not know that what they were reading was someone else’s opinion.
“Here Comes a Regular” is an immensely personal song, and to talk about it in an impersonal manner? It wouldn’t do it justice. It’s like every single depressing lyric of the album, all the “Hold my life because I just might lose it”’s, the “If being afraid’s a crime, we hang side-by-side”’s, the “All you ever wanted was someone to take care of ya”’s, rolled into one, but the thing is, there’s not a single fucking thing to distract us from the crushingly sad lyrics. Basically “Sixteen Blue,” just with a clear-as-crystal acoustic guitar instead of an electric one. I had heard the song dozens of times before (it had at that point accumulated the most plays according to Itunes, though this was before I recognized the beauty of the shorter and sweeter “Waitress in the Sky”), but there was this one afternoon in the summer of 2012, when I came to the realization for the first time after a period of denial that I had lost nearly everything (the story really isn’t that important, or maybe it is, but I don’t want to tell it). And listening to the song, cigarette-in-mouth, at the time didn’t make me feel better. I nearly cried my fucking eyes out, but looking back, it sort of did. Paul’s lingering questions, “Am I the only one…here today?” “Am I the only one…who feels ashamed?” made me feel like I wasn’t alone.
I have a dream … of a world where more people know about Tim.