FLASHBACK: LET IT BE BY THE REPLACEMENTS

This review first appeared six years and one day ago on January 6, 2007. I have added and edited a few words to this version.

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Let It Be is not as consistent as its follow-up, Tim, but it contains more of The Replacement’s best songs. It also contains filler in the worst sense of the word, but that is forgivable since it is surrounded by wonderful hardcore and straightforward rockers, as well as sincere acoustic guitar and piano based-ballads.

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“I Will Dare” – featuring old-timey guitar and even a mandolin – and “Favorite Thing,” also with a twangy guitar, are cleaner (but hardly pristine) updates of their earlier sound. After these opening tracks, the band revisits that earlier sound with the album’s hardest-rocking numbers, “We’re Coming Out” and “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out.” (The latter provides two minutes of comic relief, but it’s too bad that Paul Westerberg stumbles over the lyrics in the second verse.)

Following these four rockers, the rest of the worthwhile tracks are basically ballads, and are just as good and sometimes better than the disc’s rock songs. “Androgynous,” which follows on the heels of “Tommy,” is a stunner. Musically, it is shoved along by a weeping piano. Lyrically, it vividly portrays the desolate streets of a small Midwestern town, where anything other than stiflingly normal is suspect: “Kewpie dolls and urine stalls/Will be laughed at/The way you’re laughed at now.” (I am originally from such a town, so I know what Westerberg is talking about.) This song shows the influence of the more haunting moments of the Big Star record Third/Sister Lovers.

Finally, in terms of the good songs, the acoustic “Unsatisfied” and the electric “Answering Machine” makes Westerberg’s influence on the alternative scene that blossomed in the early 90s blatantly obvious.

Let It Be is not perfect, of course. “Seen You’re Video” and “Gary’s Got a Boner” are the previously-mentioned offending filler. The cover of Kiss’s “Black Diamond” isn’t terribly bad, but it isn’t terribly inspired, either. Finally, “Sixteen Blue” is often praised for its portrayal of “the hardest age.” Granted, it makes some accurate enough observations, but as a song, it isn’t really anything special (except for Bob Stinson’s cool fade-out guitar).

This is one of several songs on the disc that indicate that Westerberg was looking to his teenage years for lyrical inspiration. However, the Kiss cover and Ted Nugent riff on “Gary’s Got a Boner” suggest that he and Stinson may have relied too much on their teenage record collection for musical inspiration. Nevertheless, there are several more palpable points of reference, too, such as the New York Dolls, Alex Chilton (duh), and that other Minneapolis post-punk outfit, Hüsker Dü.

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I was only 8 years old when Let It Be was released, and too into classic rock when my high school classmates got into The Replacements via Paul Westerberg’s solo work. For both reasons, I don’t have any memories of listening to the band when I could have really related to their songs. In fact, I didn’t really start listening to them until I was in my late 20s. The fact that they can be appreciated so many years after the fact is evidence of the timeless quality of their songs, and proof that they were as responsible for albums that were as essential to the 80s as those by American peers such as Hüsker Dü, R.E.M., and The Pixies.

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