Let It Be
1984’s Let It Be is the point where The Replacements made their great leap forward, augmenting charming but throwaway punk with more serious and emotionally resonant material. Together with the subsequent Tim and Pleased To Meet Me, Let It Be is part of the Replacements mid-80s trinity of great records. It’s divided almost equally between throwaway material like a Kiss cover and ‘Gary’s Got A Boner’ and more serious work. You’d think it would undermine the heartfelt ‘Unsatisfied’ to follow a Kiss cover, but somehow the inclusion of what would normally be filler material balances the album out – a whole album of ‘Answering Machine’ would feel overwrought.
The serious material includes the closing ‘Answering Machine’, which is intense despite not using a rhythm section, and the anguished ‘Unsatisfied’ (“look me in the eye/and tell me, that you’re satisfied”), where Westerberg adds some lap steel. ‘Androgynous’ adds some diversity with a piano led rumination on gender identity confusion, and ‘Sixteen Blue’ takes on adolesence. R.E.M.’s Peter Buck contributes a guitar solo to the opening ‘I Will Dare’. Among the lighter material, the less essential material includes the Kiss cover ‘Black Diamond’, the bratty ‘Seen Your Video’ and the loping ‘We’re Coming Out’, although each of these has a sloppy charm of its own.
It’s not their most consistent record but it would still be perfectly reasonable to argue for Let It Be as the best example of The Replacements oeuvre, as it represents the meeting point of their less serious early work and their more mature later work.