As Twin Cities music fans get ready to once again celebrate the music of our beloved musical delinquents the Replacements at First Avenue on Friday night (specifically the songs featured on Pleased To Meet Me), now would be a perfect time to take a look at the lasting appeal and initial impact of the ‘Mats’ acclaimed fifth album.
Pleased To Meet Me was released in the summer of 1987, coming nearly two years after their major label debut, Tim, which was quite a lengthy break for a productive band who managed to release their first four albums in only four years. And that extra time was spent not only bringing surprising horn and string arrangements into their sound, but also splurging for the extravagance (at the time) of recording digitally, as legendary producer Jim Dickinson did away with the edgy hiss featured on some of their earlier recordings while still capturing the immediacy and urgency of the songs themselves.
And while the sound of Pleased To Meet Me is cleaner and more polished than its predecessors, musically the album is all over the map, with the band seemingly taking chances at every turn. There is the loungey swing of “Nightclub Jitters” alongside the angst-fueled pulse of “The Ledge,” and the plaintive acoustic sentiment of “Skyway” — which seemed to be a tender in-joke for the Minneapolis locals who retreat to their warm sanctuary during the cold winter months — followed immediately by the horn-laden pop crush of “Can’t Hardly Wait.”
The Replacements were stylistically trying a bit of everything on Pleased To Meet Me, and while this divergent collection of songs technically has no business being so cohesive, the album holds together remarkably well, perhaps better than any of their albums that came before or after.
Of course, these drastic stylistic shifts wouldn’t work nearly as well if the songs themselves weren’t strong, and with Bob Stinson being kicked out of the band after Tim, Paul Westerberg fully assumed the creative reigns that he always felt were rightfully his anyway. And without question the legendary songwriter was on an inspired artistic streak during this period.
The record doesn’t sound like a reach for any type of musical brass ring by Westerberg and the boys, but instead comes off more like the natural evolution of a band who had reached the creative peak of their powers playing songs that Westerberg was born to write. A tune like “Alex Chilton” bristles with the self-assured confidence of a songwriter who truly found something to say, both musically and lyrically, and the rest of the record maintains that same cocksure conviction and insouciant poise.
That’s not to say that the boys weren’t still having a laugh throughout Pleased To Meet Me, as on the raucous, Southern-fried rock (an influence of recording the record in Memphis) of “I.O.U.,” where Westerberg packs a thinly veiled jab at the band’s major label deal in his feisty lyrics: “Listen to the story all right/I’m losing all I own on that dotted line.” “I Don’t Know” literally begins with laughter, before the swinging slacker anthem kicks into gear as Westerberg boldly claims that he’s got “one foot in the door, the other one in the gutter,” preemptively striking out at any longtime fans who might be concerned about the band’s more refined new sonic direction.
The Replacements weren’t pretending to have anything figured out at this point; that would have simply come across as disingenuous and dishonest. They were just relying on Paul’s natural songwriting ability as well as their cool, cavalier attitude, which injects each of these tracks with a strong sense of internal belief as well as an enduring spirit which rings true to both the disenfranchised as well as the establishment. These rousing songs played just as well on the radio as they did down at the corner bar.
While Slim Dunlap wasn’t featured on the recordings of Pleased To Meet Me, the talented guitarist joined the band shortly after the album’s release for the subsequent tour. And as Dunlap continues his slow recovery from a stroke he suffered in February, the Replacements Tribute at First Avenue on Friday night has turned into a fundraiser to raise money for Slim’s heath fund.
The tables in the balcony are currently being auctioned off on eBay, while proceeds from ticket sales to the Tribute will also be donated to his cause. And there will be a Mad Ripple Hootenanny held at the 7th Street Entry on Friday, with Jim Walsh leading a special musical tribute to Slim and his distinguished songbook.
The list of local talent who are taking part in the annual Replacements Tribute is an extensive one, including a planned performance of Pleased To Meet Me during the evening, featuring various special guest vocalists. The current lineup for the event includes The Melismatics, Pink Mink, Lucy Michelle & the Velvet Lapelles, Belfast Cowboys, Bloodnstuff, Story Of The Sea with David Campbell, Eleganza, Red Daughters, The Fattenin’ Frogs, Blue Ruin, The Mad Ripple Hootenanny for Slim, Curtiss A, Gabe Douglas, Dale T. Nelson, Eric Pollard, Nick Leet, Orion Treon, John Swardson, and more.
Friday, November 23, 2012, 7:00 p.m.
7th Street Entry, 18+
$8.00 adv | $10.00 door