Skip to content

The Replacements: Worst to Best

The Replacements Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash

During ten anarchic years, The Replacements recorded a ton of wonderful Paul Westerberg songs, self-sabotaged their career, and never achieved the mass success they promised. The band started as part of the hardcore punk scene of the early 1980s, but they were never punks at heart. Lead guitarist Bob Stinson was a big fan of Yes, while lead vocalist Paul Westerberg was a sensitive writer whose empathetic songs sounded better when The ‘Mats slowed down from the extreme speed of hardcore punk. Drummer Chris Mars and bassist Tommy Stinson provided a solid rhythm section, and Stinson was merely 14 when the band released their first album, 1981’s Sorry Ma, Forgot To Bring Out The Trash.

The Replacements also have a wealth of interesting non-album material, like the legendary, and brilliantly named, bootleg The Shit Hits The Fans, where the band play a bunch of sloppy classic rock covers. There are also a bunch of worthwhile b-sides, like the Tom Waits collaboration ‘Date To Church’, the stripped down ‘Portland, and the countrified ‘If Only You Were Lonely’, while ‘Like A Rolling Pin’ was the Bob Dylan cover you always hoped someone was irreverent enough to record.


#7 – Hootenanny

The Replacements Hootenanny1983
Hootenanny represents The Replacements’ transition between their early hardcore punk, and their later alternative rock. It’s the sound of a fledgling band trying a bunch of ideas and not all of them sticking. There’s a silly Beatles medley (‘Mr Whirly’) and a throwaway opener where they all switch instruments, although ‘Lovelines’, where ‘Westerberg’ reads aloud from the classifieds, works fine. But there are a couple of classics here – the rocker ‘Color Me Impressed’ and the tender ‘Within Your Reach’, a solo effort from Westerberg and a drum machine.

Favourite Song: ‘Within Your Reach’

Live without your touch
I’ll die within your reach

#6 – Don’t Tell A Soul

Paul Simon Don't Tell A Soul1989
The Replacements made a bald-faced bid for the mainstream with their sixth album, with new guitarist Slim Dunlap in tow. But there’s not enough personality here, with too many of their rough edges sanded off. There are strong tunes like ‘We’ll Inherit The Earth’ and ‘Achin’ To Be’, but they’re drowned in reverb. As part of their bid for the mainstream, the group toured with Tom Petty, who lifted the line “Rebel without a clue” from standout track ‘I’ll Be You’ for his own ‘Into The Great Wide Open’.

Favourite Song: ‘I’ll Be You’

And I could purge my soul perhaps
For the imminent collapse

#5 – Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash

The Replacements Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash1981
The Replacements were never hardcore punks at heart, and they jumped on the bandwagon to grab a record deal. But their debut is still an entertaining ride, brimming with personality, great Bob Stinson guitar solos, and typical Westerberg one-liners; ‘Shiftless When Idle’ is a great song title. But the band’s most effective when they slow down for the emotional ‘Johnny’s Gonna Die’, a tribute to The Heartbreakers’ Johnny Thunders.

Favourite Song: ‘Johnny’s Gonna Die’

Johnny always takes more than he needs
Knows a couple chords, knows a couple leads

#4 – All Shook Down

The Replacements All Shook Down1990
The Replacements’ final album is a mournful, subdued affair that was originally intended as Paul Westerberg’s solo debut. While Tommy Stinson and Slim Dunlap play on many of the tracks, rumour has it that all four members only play on ‘Attitude’, while there are guests like John Cale, Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin, and Johnette Napolitano from Concrete Blonde duets on ‘My Little Problem’. After the sterile Don’t Tell A Soul, All Shook Down is refreshingly personal and rough-hewn.

Favourite Song: ‘Torture’

This sign is pretty poison
On the envelope she seals

#3 – Pleased To Meet Me

Paul Westerberg describes Pleased To Meet Me as The Replacements’ equivalent of The Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed, an album recorded without a lead guitarist, with Westerberg taking all the guitar duties. It’s one of the three key Replacements albums, chock full of great Westerberg songs, but it’s the weakest, without Bob Stinson’s guitar and with the slickest production job of their mid-1980s albums. But great songs abound, from Westerberg’s tribute to ‘Alex Chilton’, the acoustic, gorgeous ‘Skyway’, and the adolescent drama of ‘The Ledge’.

Favourite Song: ‘Alex Chilton’

I never travel far
Without a little Big Star

#2 – Tim

The Replacements Tim1985
Tim was The Replacements’ first major label release, with production from Tommy Ramone, and was also Bob Stinson’s final album with the band before he was fired for substance abuse. It’s a little less raw than Let It Be, but the songs are still terrific, like the silly air-hostess put-down ‘Waitress In The Sky’, rockers like ‘Hold My Life’ and ‘Bastards of Young’, and the heartfelt ‘Here Comes A Regular’; Tim is the sound of a band maintaining their peak form.

Favourite Song: ‘Little Mascara’

All you ever wanted was someone to take care of ya
All you’re ever losin’ is a little mascara

#1 – Let It Be

The Replacements Let It Be1984
Let It Be is an amazing record, juxtaposing silly throwaways like ‘Gary’s Got A Boner’ with earnest, heartfelt songs like ‘Unsatisfied’ and ‘Sixteen Blue’. Where a full album of personal songs would feel empty and manipulative, crammed together with silly throwaways like ‘Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out’, they sound natural and real. And the cover of Kiss’ ‘Black Diamond’ makes Westerberg’s writing look even better in comparison.

Favourite Song: ‘Answering Machine’

How do you say good night to
An answering machine?

Do you have a favourite ‘Mats’ album? Or track?

37 thoughts on “The Replacements: Worst to Best Leave a comment

  1. I fuckin love the Replacements. For me Westerberg is a vastly underrated songwriter.
    I’d probably swap Let it Be for Tim (I don’t like Lay It Down Clown but I can’t stand Kiss) and I find something quite enjoyable about the over production of Don’t Tell a Soul. That being said they are a band of missed opportunity and the one I reach for most is Don’t You Know Who I Think I Was. Last year’s live album is a blast too

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Good list- hard to disagree. Pleased To Meet Me is my favorite in part because it was my first Replacements- but I have to agree with you- Let It Be and Tim rank ahead of it. Saw them live a couple times- the first time was one of my favorite concerts- the second time right before they broke up- so-so.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The Replacements are one of my favorite bands, so this was a very interesting read. I’d switch Don’t Tell a Soul with Sorry Ma, ant Tim with Let It Be, but it is hard to really disagree with the order.

    Paul Westerberg is a hugely underrated songwriter, but I guess that goes along perfectly with his and his band’s image as this group of lovable losers who cannot get anything right. Well, there was one thing they did get right, which was writing and performing some of the best rock songs ever put on record.

    I guess that among the songs you did not mention I would highlight I Will Dare, Androgynous, and Sadly Beautiful, the latter of which is utterly heartbreaking and is able to shred souls and hearts with that John Cale viola solo. Sadly beautiful indeed.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’d swap Let It Be and Tim, but I’d really drop All Shook Down. It’s just lifeless. When Johnette Napolitano comes roaring in on “My Little Problem” I think “that’s what’s been missing…”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love the Mats. Saw them back in the day and Westerberg fell off the stage. Saw the reunion tour a few years back and they were shockingly good. Weird how you can sound better when you are not wasted. My daughter lives in the same building where the rent party The Replacements Stink was recorded.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Old Souls

Bringing the Old Soul style from Reü's Room

Drew's Reviews

Music Reviews You Won't Get Anywhere Else - Concert reviews, album reviews, sometimes a book review and the occasional artist interview when the timing hits just right.


"It ain't no sin to be glad you're alive..." (Bruce Springsteen, "Badlands")

Noakes family in PNG

Stories from the Swamp

Musical Musings of a Mangled Mind

Music that will get you singing


This world's so mixed up everywhere you go

El Burrito Blog

Entertainment wrapped in one bite.

Ted Tocks Covers

Music is Life...Original Songs and Cover versions

%d bloggers like this: