Tuesday, June 13, 2006

They've Still Got It

I don't buy records much anymore thanks to download sites like eMusic and MP3Sugar. But there I was today going to not one but two stores to find a copy of Don't You Know Who I Think I Was, the first ever career-spanning "best of" collection from those lovable losers, The Replacements.

I probably identified too much with the band during their career apex from 1984 to 1987 when they released three instant classics, Let It Be, Tim and Pleased to Meet Me. Instead of embracing Paul Westerberg's softer, sweeter side I bought into the cynical drunk side of the band hook, line and sinker much to my detriment.

But that was when and this is now. Don't You Know... does an admirable job of distilling the band's genius into 18 classics plus 2 new tracks recorded around the end of last year with the three surviving original members doing their thing. I could certainly quibble with some of the exclusions (where's "If Only You Were Lonely", "Sixteen Blue" or "Talent Show") but with a long-awaited box set rumored for next year I can't complain too much.

The highlight of the collection -- aside from stellar liner notes by Bill Holdship -- are the two new tracks. Written by Westerberg back when the band was still together in one form or another, they're trademark Tim-era 'Mats tracks. "Pool & Dive", the disc's closer, would have been enjoyable filler on Tim or Pleased... and is a welcome nugget here.

More impressively, "Message to the Boys" is packed with typically Westerbergian witicisms and the type of catchy hooks that made the 'Mats stand out from their contemporaries, as well as everybody they've ever influenced.

As I cranked it up in the car with the top open and the windows down, shouting along with the lyrics I already knew from the tinny MP3 I'd been listening to for the last few weeks, one thing was obvious. They've still got it.

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