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(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

The Replacements were the populist,grass-roots alter-ego of Husker Du. Their early albums were influencedby the epic frenzy of the Sex Pistols and the New York Dolls. But onHootenanny (1983) Paul Westerberg emerged as a confessional and visionary songwriter, and theband began to spin blues, country, rockabilly and boogie while retainingthe anthemic spirit (and the raw sound) of punk-rock.Let It Be (1984) slowed down the pace and toned down the guitars,giving Paul Westerberg the front stage and a messianic role.His inner torture became the spiritual journey of an entire generation,a sort of passion/martyrdom that ordinary American kids identified within an almost genetic way. It was his iconic mixture of pride, defeat,longing and will that propelled the band's power-ballads.Tim (1985) was at the same time a documentary of American teenage lifeand a parade of authentic, impeccable rock'n'roll. In its desolate cries,the mythology of the misfit and the loner reached another zenith of pathos.The versatile, eclectic, encyclopedic style of Pleased To Meet Me (1987)signaled that the Replacements had exhausted their historical role.They had exhausted their generation's sorrows.(Translated from my original Italian text by DommeDamian)

The Replacements ("Mats" for fans) were, alongside Husker Du, the glory of Minneapolis punk during theearly 1980s.Like their cousins, the Mats represented a moment of recollectionand rethinking, in which the humble private lives of the provincial"kids" took precedence over the public disgust.Compared totheir cousins, the Mats were, however, even closer to the soul of their peers.Deafening,raw, fast and passionate, the Replacements were the epitome of the marriagebetween art and life that young punks were looking for, but at the sametime Paul Westerberg was the natural spokesperson for his generation.BobStinson, a rocky and brutal guitarist, served as a bit of a driving force inthe sound.

They debuted in 1981, in the midst of the hardcore boom, with the singleI'm In Troubleand the albumSorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash!(Twin Tone, 1981).The album was piloted by two vulgar generational anthems such asTakin 'A RideandShiftless When Idle, reaffirming their status as alcoholicand“brawling"kids in some demonic thrash punk (Don't Ask Why,Shut Up,Customer,Rattlesnake) that borrowed the frontal assault from the Sex Pistols and the charge from the New York Dolls, but also highlighted debts to country (Love You Till Friday), rockabilly (More Cigarettes), and boogie (Hanging Downtown).Thesarcastic social reflections on the musical milieu ofI Hate Music,Johnny's Gonna DieandI Bought A Headacheare particularly impressive."I ain't got no idols / I ain't got much taste / I'm shiftless when I'm idle / And I got time to waste" sums up their whole philosophy of vagabond and unemployed kid of the "low".
Sorry Ma was one of the most enthralling and mature albums of 1981, allthe more surprising when you consider that the oldest, the leader PaulWesterberg, was twenty-one and the youngest was only fifteen.

Stink (Twin Tone, 1982) brought out precisely the most violent and arrogant qualities of their show.From epilepsy to more epilepsy, the Replacements traced an epicfresco of their generation (see the four terrifying anthems of the first side,among the most excited ever:Kids Don't Follow,f*ckSchool,God Damn Job,Stuck In The Middle)and their perception of the world (Dope Smokin'Moron,Gimme Noise).ButWesterberg's personality was beginning to emerge both as a passionate performer(in the blues shuffle ofWhite And Lazy)and as a lyric reporter (in the ballad ofGo).

Crowned by this record as one of the greatest rock'n'roll bands of the time, certainly one of the most authentic and visceral, two steps above the X and the other ambiguous Californian acts, the Replacements onHootenanny(TwinTone, 1983) moved decisively towards blues landscapes (the title-trackandTreatment Bound), surf (Buck Hill),true rock'n'roll (Take Me Down To The Hospital),folk and country, brushing a lot of ballads of precocious wisdom (Color MeImpressed) as much as instigations to commit crime (Run It,YouLose,Hey Day), and touching the heights of pathosinWillpower'semotional collapseandin the U2-esqueballadWithin Your Reach.Incorrigiblerebels, they had the courage to shout with animal enthusiasm "the labelwants a hit / and we don't give a sh*t".The album, precisely becauseit renounces the theatrical exaggerations of punk, is possibly the one thatbest captures the spirit of the "Mats".Color Me Impressed,WillpowerandWithinYour Reachwill remain among the classics of their generation.

Let It Be (Twin Tone, 1984) confirmed the new style but avoided its dispersion.The songsare tight-fitting power-pop tracks like the anthemI Will Dare(withcountry tints) and the almost-instrumental hard rock ofSeen Your Video,with some wild novelty (Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out, andAerosmith-style grooves inGary's Got A Boner) and a couple oflyrical ballads (UnsatisfiedandSixteen Blue).Eventhe youngest raging adrenaline rushes (We're Coming Out,Answering Machine) are arranged to moderate the violence.
Its underlying theme is being someone no one else would like to be, being proud and desperate, marginalized and mythologized at the same time.The form of the hard-folk ballad turns out to be the most pertinent to the program, even if in this way the Mats lose the shock force of the pure rock and roll of theorigins, and the funs cry out to betrayal.The record is a blockbuster forindies and established a new standard of punk rock forthe mass of ordinary kids, as opposed to the new abstruse rock of Minutemen andBlack Flag.Indeed, it is the work that best balances the adolescentthrill of punk with the proletarian yearning of a mature youth.
Considered by many to be one of the top names in punk rock music,Let It Be(Twin Tone, 1984) was the album that transformed Replacements from simple generational icons to universal artists.

Thus it was thatTim(Sire, 1985) imposed them as warm and male life singers in a more moderate style ofpunk-pop that oscillates between their classic boogie (Dose of Thunder,LayIt Down Clown) and the emotional ballads (Swinging Partyandabove allHere Comes A Regular), with a whole series ofgenerational pictures a la Kinks (in particularKiss Me On The Bus,but alsoLittle MascaraandHold My Life) andvintage photos a la Stray Cats (I'll Buy).Above all, the sickinvectives ofBastards of YoungandLeft of The Dial arise.
It is perhaps the most ‘complete' and coherent album of their career, in which the genius of Westerberg churns out memorable ballads, one after the other, effortlessly (Here Comes A Regular,Left of The Dial,Here Comes A Regular).Bob Stinson and Chris Mars assist the leader with punchy guitars and tight cadences.And the ensemble produces some of the most touching moments of all 80s rock.
Far from the scorching hardcore atmosphere, the Replacements resumesthe tradition of the rock song where it left off before the punk flood.

Westerberg is the most typical cantor of the so-called "me generation", of which he captures theconstitutional weaknesses (insecurity, immaturity, unpreparedness, andpassivity).The guitarist, Bob Stinson, was responsible for the mostreprehensible excesses, especially in live performances.Downsizing him(and put to the door a few months later, replaced by Slim Dunlap), thepersonality of the leader has a way to catalyze all the attention on thestories.Angry, cynical, desperate, Westerberg lives the violent world ofhis contemporaries, a world of drugs, sex, alcohol, fights, and car racing.

OnPleased To Meet Me(Sire, 1987), encyclopedic in its sources of inspiration, lyrical and melodic even inthe general abrasive chaos, their slogans are therefore less provocative, evenif more mature.From the scruffy male rock and roll ofIOU,ValentineandRedRed Wineto the power-pop ofAlex Chilton(movingtribute to their dark muse), from the sour and tender ballads ofSkyway(oneof the best of the genre) andNightclub Jittersto rhythm andironic blues ofI Don't Knowand above allCan'tHardly Wait, from the southern boogie ofShooting Dirty Pool totheheavy metal ofThe Ledge(one of their most popularsongs), these are the Rolling Stones of punk.

Suspicion was also confirmed by the more commercialDon't Tell A Soul(Sire, 1989), between acountry-rock lament (Achin 'To Be,very radio-friendly), a depraved boogie (I Won't), a rhythm and bluesbar-band (Talent Show), a couple of chart-topping power-pops (I'll BeYou,Back To Back), an old-time "slow" (They'reBlind) and the lyrical, spooky ode ofRock And Roll Ghost,which sinks into the personal ordeal of the leader'smisunderstanding.Westerberg's ambivalence has now become schizophrenic:his ego as a rabid rebel, a stray dog, constantly fighting against a crowd ofliars, snobs, hypocrites, cowards, sold, is contrasted with the art of chiselingformally flawless songs , a far cry from the wild rockand roll of yesteryear.

All Shook Down (Sire,1990) was not the last Replacements album, but in fact the first solo album bytheir capricious and self-injurious leader, Paul Westerberg, undoubtedly one ofthe greatest songwriters of the 1980s.Musically, the work is a completelyunsuccessful, even inferior to the group's previous album,Don't Tell A Soul, which had already been their biggest let-down of the decade.Sadly Beautiful,Merry Go Round,Bent Out of Shape(the only one played with Mars and Stilton),When It Began,Happy Town,andMy Little Problemare not songs, they are the obituary of one of the most important bands of the 80s.

The superb trilogy of Let It Be, Tim and PleaseTo Meet Me& (or tetralogy, also counting theunderrated but no less wonderful Hootenanny ) has remainedwithout sequel.At the same time, rumors are rampant, the background onthe management of the Replacements, which portrays Westerberg as a littleunscrupulous Hitler, determined to take maximum personal advantage from theoperation, with no respect for others.

Westerberg's proud singing is the purest voice of his generation's restlessness.His ballads were dedicatedto boys like himself.Taken together, they make up a great, epic saga ofthe "sick" adolescence of the American province.

All For Nothing (Reprise)is a bad anthology of the later years.

Slim Dunlap, Chris Mars e Paul Westerberg launchedprolific solo careers, while bassist Tommy Stinson formedBash And Pop.Bob Stinson instead became the umpteenthvictim of rock and roll (dying of an overdose in 1995).

Don't You Know Who I Think I Was?(Sire, 2006) is a career retrospective.

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