Read Hard’s Classic Pop-punk Picks #26: The Replacements- Tim

Posted: December 11, 2015 in Read Hard's Classic Pop Punk Picks

I think this column has gotten to the point where the genre ‘Pop Punk’ doesn’t really mean anything anymore and I just ramble on about my favorite records, partly anyway. It’s going to be hard to explain why I would classify the Replacements’ classic, Tim, as a Pop Punk album. It does of course take the punk sound from their earlier records, mixing it with classic pop tunes and the sort of College Rock they moved on to on Let It Be. The Mats were formed in Minneapolis in 1979 by the brothers Bob and Tommy Stinson, the band was later joined by drummer Chris Mars and singer Paul Westerberg. Their first album Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash, released in 1981, was a pretty standard Hardcore/Punk album and gave the world a preview of Westerberg’s raspy voice. A voice that has had an obvious direct or indirect influence on bands like Jawbreaker, Latterman and Billy Raygun, so we are getting closer to Pop Punk now at least. The band had always flirted with a Country/Folk sound with songs like “If Only You Were Lonely” and “You’re Getting Married”, but it was on their sophomore record, Hootenanny, they started mixing the Punk roots they never really admitted to having with a more college rock sound, whatever that is, and in spite of the album’s title, which is a reference to a Folk tradition in the neo-Folk scene in the 50’s and 60’s, it might be their album with the least influences from Folk music. As I’ve said Let It Be went full on College Rock and in many ways tried to imitate the classic rock bands such as The Beatles, Rolling Stones and they even did a cover of Kiss’s “Black Diamond”. This influence from classic rock can also be seen in the album title, that is a reference to the Beatles album and song of the same name, this can later be seen on Pleased to Meet Me, that is a reference to the Stones classic “Sympathy for the Devil”. Tim is to me the most interesting and diverse album, but also the album where Westerberg shines the most as a songwriter.

Tim was released in October, 1985 on Sire Records, it was their major label debut. It’s also probably their weirdest album cover. Most of the album cover is black and white and is kind of a creepy hall. The upper part of the cover is pink and viewing it upside down you can see a weird face and viewing it normally you can see someone playing the guitar and someone else holding their hand up. The album was produced by Tommy Ramone and like I said before expanded the College Rock sound from Let It Be and took the Punk sound of the older days and mixed in Classic Rock and Pop music. It peaked at nr. 183 on the Billboard album chart.
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1. “Hold My Life”: The first song on the album has rather strange lyrics, where the verses make very little sense, but are weirdly poetic and beautiful. The lyrics of the song base on clever rhyming and punnery in the way that Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello had done before and that Dr. Frank and Billie Joe Armstrong would do later. The line “Crack up in the sun/ Lose it in the shade” is pretty good, a lot of the song’s lyrics are based on the ambiguity of “losing it”. The metaphor or idiom “losing it” comes from taking the literal act of losing something that you can actually hold and the idiom means that you are losing control, something that is not of substance, but an abstract concept. Ironically, so is life itself, so the title saying “Hold My Life” is not actually possible and actually makes an incredibly beautiful image of needing someone to hold your life, because you might lose it, “lose it” could here both refer to losing your life, or “losing it” in general, meaning; losing control. The “Razzle-dazzle-razzle-droll” part comes from the rhyme “Razzle-dazzle” which means something that shows brilliance. There’s also a chance that the line is also a tribute to the Hanoi Rocks drummer nicknamed Razzle that died the previous year. Musically, the song starts up like a pretty standard Rock song, but the chorus shows brilliant Pop-sensibilities and the little, simple riff when Westerberg sings “Cuz I just might lose it” is the best part of the song!

2. “I’ll Buy”: is an OK that just fills the gap between “Hold My Life” and “Kiss Me on the Bus”. It continues the wordplay of “Hold My Life” and has lots of pop-cultural references. “Give my regards to Broadway” is a reference to a classic show tune of the same name, that also was referenced in Paul McCartney’s “Give My Regards to Broad Street” a few years earlier. The song seems to be about someone driving a car and wanting to get laid. Westerberg also sings “Movies are for retards, like me and Maybelline”, which is a reference to Chuck Berry’s breakthrough hit. Some of the puns in the song: “Don’t wanna get pop, find yourself a rockin’ chair” and “Never get passed the dice dear, goddammit, I’m gonna roll”.

3. “Kiss Me on the Bus”: Many of the songs on Tim have been said to be inspired by other bands, “Kiss Me on the Bus” is said to be influenced by Nick Lowe and it is indeed a super catchy Power Pop track. There is something quite melancholic, but also youthful about the song. The song is about wanting to be kissed on the bus, but the other person seems a bit more shy about this than the narrator. In the chorus Westerberg sings “If you knew how I felt now, you wouldn’t act so adult now” and brings the feeling of youth into the song and you almost get the feeling that the two characters on the bus are teenagers. The guitar solo and handclaps are wonderful and the production is marvelous. As always the tambourine plays an important role and makes the song so much better. A real fucking classic there! Sugar sweet and swinging!

4. “Dose of Thunder”: Like “I’ll Buy”, “Dose of Thunder” is closer to the more Hard Rock-esque songs on Let It Be. The lyrics are really nothing special and neither is the music, this feels like listening to Kiss or some shit. It’s not awul, but compared to the classics on the album it really falls short. It has the weird lyrics “Gimme gimme in a hurry/Texas added to Missouri”

5. “Waitress in the Sky”: Is a standard Rock n’ roll song that is somewhat slow-paced, but catchy. It bears a huge resemblance to Harold Dorman’s 1960 hit “Mountain of Love”. The song is about a protagonist on a plane who is making demeaning comments about a fly attendant, claiming she is just a waitress in the sky and he is tired of me being treated as a bum. The protagonist tries to play the role of the rebel, he sees a sign that says “Thank you very much for not smoking” and has his own sign that says “I’m sorry I’m smoking” in the bridge, this is poking fun at politeness often shown in commands when they really rhetorically express authority. The song is often accused of sexism and misogyny and I think I read once that Westerberg said he liked the song in spite of its misogyny, but he also said in an Uncut interview that the song is from the experience of his sister being a fly attendant and being treated like shit and him playing the role of the asshole. (I think he put it a different way though).

6. “Swingin’ Party”: I think “Swingin’ Party” is the best song on the album and one of the most outstanding musical and lyrical pieces ever made. The music is mellow and slow and gives a feeling of comfort and melancholy. The lyrics gives new meaning to our conception of a party and some shiny little metaphors. My favorite part of the song might be the second verse: “On the prairie pavement Losing proposition/ Quitting school and going to work And never going fishing/ Water all around/ Never learn how to swim now” I feel like this could be a reference to our at least have similarities with Coleridge’s epic poem Rime of the Ancient Mariner (“Water, water everywhere”) where water could be seen as a metaphor for opportunity, but when you see water all around you’ll never learn to swim and you’ll never learn to embrace the opportunities. Westerberg also sings “if being alone is a crime I’m serving forever” and “if being afraid is a crime everyone hangs side by side at the swinging party”, this shows an ambiguity that this party both holds suffering and togetherness and it shows how depression and anxiety can bring people together as much as it can separate them. In the documentary about the Replacements called “Color Me Obsessed”, that of course includes no music by the band, they described the band as where the outcasts could go to fit in because the Mats were the band where those who didn’t fit in anywhere else could be together, and the song could be a proper description of that, but also relates to the human condition in general. The lampshade in the song is a metaphor or a substitute for drugs and alcohol and he sings “Bring your own lampshade” or “Pass around the lampshade”, which are references to the idioms “bring your own beer” and “pass around the weed”.

7. “Bastards of Young”: The next track “Bastards of Young” continues the outsider theme, but in a more upbeat anthemic way. The song is maybe the most famous song from the album and the band’s biggest hit along with “Can’t Hardly Wait”. The song is incredibly catchy and will probably make you sing along to the chorus, even if most people get the lyrics wrong, I’m sure Westerberg sings “Wait on the sons of no one” (whatever the hell that means) and most people think it’s “We are the sons of no one”. The song has a way of gathering the outcasts and I feel like the line “Dreams unfulfilled, graduate unskilled” continues the theme from “Swingin’ Party”: “Quitting school and going to work and never going fishin’”. I always heard that they name of bunch of rock n’ roll legends in the song (Pete Townsend, Waylon Jennings, Willy and Nelson), but reading the lyrics the only one I only see Elvis, who had been in the ground for seven years. The third verse always gives me chills, because it’s so painfully true and it’s just so well written: “The ones who love us best are the ones we’ll lay to rest/ And visit their graves on holidays at best/ The ones who love us least are the ones we’ll die to please/ If it’s any consolation, I don’t begin to understand them”, that’s poetry, maaan. Musically, the song has always reminded me of the Clash and there is definitely something really Clashing about the ending. The band made a music video for the song that is just someone putting on the record and listening to it while smoking in black and white, I think they made similar videos for other songs on the album as well. The video shows how minimalistic a music video can be in a world full of Peter Gabriel and Aha. Even the Severys Snape of Punk Rock Ben Weasel said he liked the video in an Alternative Press interview, in spite of often showing dissatisfaction with the rest of the band’s work.

8. “Lay It Down Clown”: Another, and the last of the more Hard Rock songs on the album and a pretty alright one at that. The opening line: “Got a big switchblade, drop drop bill a tease” sounds like a Masked Intruder line. I don’t know if “I finally found out which way the wind blows” is a Bob Dylan reference, maybe Westerberg just didn’t need a weatherman either, maybe he didn’t even need Dylan.

9. “Left of the Dial”: Another song that has become a classic on the album is “Left of the Dial” an ode to College radio. The song starts up very upbeat, but turns into more of a ballad. The song is about finding an unknown band, it could be a reference to a fan finding out about the Replacements themselves, or the band members finding other bands. The title refers to college stations being on the left side of the radio dial, there’s also a kind a clever reference to the old Union hymn “Which Side Are You On?” when he asks “what side are you on?”, but here he refers to which side of the dial, it seems. Westerberg told Uncut about college radio and said “as that’s where all our airplay came from, and it was colleges where we used to play. The irony that four guys, none of whom had a high school diploma, would play every college in America – ridiculous. It never dawned on us that the kids had to go study for their tests next day. So we ended up going to college in an odd kind of way.” After all the influence and inspiration the band has gotten from others, they also got some respect back. The highly respected rockers Good Charlotte made a little homage to the song in their song “Change” when they go on and on and on.

10 “Little Mascara”: It’s not only Good Charlotte of the modern Pop Punk icons that have been inspired by the Mats, it’s probably Green Day’s biggest reference point. Blink-182 also took a lot of inspiration from them, and I like to think that their broken home hit “Stay Together for the Kids” is a reference to the song “Little Mascara” when Westerberg sings “For the kids you stay together”. It doesn’t have much to do with “Stay Together for the Kids” though and the lyrics seem more like the Blink song “Emo” if anything. The lyrics comes from a first person narrative singing about a “you” who has been left, we can somehow assume that “you” is a woman, but like “Androgynous” from Let It Be shows us, we can’t be sure! Westerberg makes some really great images in the song and some of the words will probably make any lyricist incredibly be jealous wishing they were the ones that wrote it, especially concerning how simple it really is. The chorus goes “All you ever wanted was someone to take care of ya/All you’re ever losing is a little mascara” meaning even if she cries for the man who left her, he wasn’t really a loss and all she loses is the mascara from crying. Musically, this song also sounds a lot like the Clash and it’s all in all a very powerful song!

11. “Here Comes a Regular”: The album ends with another ballad, and another song about outcasts, this time the setting is a bar with drunks. There are some wonderful lines in this song too and the song, like “Swingin’ Party” is both really depressing and somewhat uplifting at the same time. And also so easily relatable, even if you aren’t a drunk. I do wonder if Westerberg had watched a lot of “Cheers” when he wrote this song. The song describes the seasons changing and life changing. The line “I used to live at home, now I stay at the house” has been relatable to me ever since I moved away from my parents’ and I don’t even know if it means what I think it means, but with the fridge line before it, it’s perfect. A lot of images pop up in my mind when I hear the song, I can imagine the regular coming into the bar asking “Am I the only one who feels ashamed?”, I can imagine a drinking buddy in the arms of someone’s baby. The line “The fool who wastes his life, God rest his guts” is a treasure too. Melodically, the song sounds a bit like Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, but I don’t think they sound similar listening to them next to each other. There’s also a great piano by the end that makes ends this classic album perfectly.
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So is the album Pop Punk? Probably not, is it a classic? Yes! It’s probably one of the albums that relates most to the outsider and the outcast of the world! And it definitely has stood the test of time, and has everything from Folk music, to Hard rock, to Pop Punk to Power Pop, College Rock and Ballads. There’s no album that could replace it! The next article will be about the band Shelley’s Children hidden treasures “Everytown” and “Mask of Anarchy”.

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