October 22, 2006

October's Record You Should Own

When I first heard this album, I was a student at the University of Chicago, where I majored mostly in indecision and heavy drinking. (With my grades at the wrong end of the alphabet, I ended up transferring here, but that's another story) There are those who argue for Let It Be as the Replacements' greatest...or even the later Pleased to Meet Me, but for me, Tim is my I'm-ticked-off-and-need-to-rock-out album of choice, and it's this month's Record You Should Own.

This is where Paul Westerberg's songwriting began hitting its peak, and combined with Tommy Erdelyi's (aka "Tommy Ramone's") big 80s production, this album is a wall-to-wall masterpiece. It begins with "Hold My Life", which contains the Replacements' philosophy in two lines: "Time for a decision to be made/crack up in the sun, lose it in the shade.". Be sure to enjoy "Kiss Me on the Bus" - a nice, poppy Spector-ish number about finding affection on public transportation. "Dose of Thunder" serves as a blueprint for Pleased To Meet Me's "Shootin' Dirty Pool", and "Waitress in the Sky" cops a riff from Johnny Rivers' "Mountain of Love, reflecting the Replacements' reputation as "radio brats."

However, it's the first side closer of "Swingin' Party" that shows how Westerberg has raised the stakes - a moody, low-key piece, listen to the way he sings "If bein' afraid is a crime/we hang side by side", and that was always part of the Replacements' appeal - finding the common humanity in everyone, and dealing with the growing pains of adulthood, capturing the ambiguity of increased confidence and insecurity.

Side two (OK, it's on CD, but hey, I'm still a vinyl guy) begins with "Bastards of Young" - the closest that Generation X has come to a "Satisfaction" or "My Generation." There are too many quotable lines from that song - but check out these lyrics. Then, of course, there's "Left of the Dial" - another anthem, encouraging (maybe metaphorically, maybe literally) for listeners to keep "playin' makeup, wearin' guitar". "Little Mascara" is a rollicking number, a poignant slice-of-life about a single mother. But the album proper closes with "Here Comes a Regular", a bittersweet number that (allegedly) was posed to Frank Sinatra. Full of fatalistic, accepting-yet-pessimistic lines ("Used to live at home, now I stay in the house...Opportunity knocks once and the door slams shut"), this is a chilling closer. No big finishes for the Replacements, just the simple acceptance that life goes on.

This is an album that I've been drawing a lot of strength from - it's always helped me through troubled times, and is a continual reminder that the best art allows us to accept our situation...and transcend it. And that's why you need to own this album.

Coming soon to Blog This, Pal!: comic book reviews; a new feature on the blog; a look at nostalgia; posts that I keep putting off...and, as always, the kind of thing that you're used to, and that we're good at.

Thanks for reading.

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