Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Review : ‘The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting: An Oral History'

OK, so Paul Westerberg was an exceptional songwriter, but it’s hard to read Jim Walsh’s oral history The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting without thinking the moral of the story is that anyone can play Rock & Roll. The ‘Mats were a people’s band who pursued fame with one hand and scorned it with the other, a sloppy drunk quartet of Minneapolis dirtbags who won a following because they were unpredictable, outrageous, loutish, insane. That Westerberg emerged as a tremendous power-pop composer in the tradition of Pete Townshend, Alex Chilton, and Rick Nielsen was beside the point.

That combination of stage infamy—Westerberg deciding the band would eschew their greatest hits in favor of appalling Chuck Berry covers, Bob Stinson lifting his skirt to present his balls to the audience, teen brother Tommy Stinson dropping jaws simply for being so fucking young—and spectacularly ragged records made The Replacements cult heroes. They could get prestigious opening tour slots for Keith Richards and Tom Petty but couldn’t bring themselves to appear in anything as crass as a music video. A pal of the band from way back when, Walsh drew together a cast of nearly 150 friends, family members, fans, and fellow Minnesotans to tell this often hilarious, often harrowing, often exhilarating tale. The band members are mostly represented by a trove of quotes from old interviews.

On paper, The Replacements story is not much different from any other band’s: they rose from middle-class ennui to enjoy a degree of popularity, engaged in heated Rock & Roll rivalries with other local groups (particularly Hüsker Dü), over-indulged in a variety of substances, and didn’t all live to tell the tale. The big differences are the vehemence with which they refused to play the Rock & Roll success game, the respect and loathing they earned (famed asshole Steve Albini often had choice words for the guys), and their confounding paradoxical status as ordinary legends. Punks like Joe Strummer, Johnny Rotten, and even Joey Ramone were larger than life, either as cartoon characters or political way-lighters. The Replacements were the cretins demolishing classic Rock & Roll tunes in the garage next door, and like Spinal Tap’s keyboardist, they just wanted to have a good time all the time, often at the expense of their fans, their critics, and themselves. They weren’t gods. They were me and they were you. You can’t say that about many Rock stars, can you?

Anyone who loves The Replacements has no excuse for not reading All Over But the Shouting. Hell, anyone who loves Rock & Roll has no excuse either. I’ve been reading a lot of Rock & Roll books lately, and this is the first one I’ve read in a long, long time that made me want to join a band, get stinking drunk, and moon a room full of gawkers. Any takers?

Get The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting: An Oral History at here.
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