Word from somewhere outta the Midwest is that the Replacements–in many ways the quintessential American indie band–are reuniting for a trio of festival shows. In Denver, Chicago and Toronto. Whether or not the band will add more dates is uncertain, as is the band’s lineup. The band’s best known living principals, Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson are on board. Their last lead guitar player, Slim Dunlap suffered a stroke and is unable to play, drummer Chris Mars is now a fine artist and may be unwilling to play (their notorious feuds ended when they recorded tracks to raise cash for Dunlap).
Their evolution as a band, detailed in Michael Azzerad’s wonderful tome Our Band Could be Your Life is almost the story of Amerindie itself. Beginning on a tiny Minneapolis independant label Twin Tone as a not really hardcore at all band that played the same circuit as their city mates Husker Du, the Replacements 1984 album Let It Be ranks with any of the great classic blues based rock discs ever made–without any hint of the blues. Signing with Warner Brothers in the wake of the masterpiece, they continued to their evolution into more cerebral roots music. Perched between the underground that birthed them and the commercial success that eluded them, they called it a day 22 years ago.
Whether or not their motives for returning are financial (bassist Stinson has made a good living as Duff McKagan’s “replacement” in Guns N Roses) or artistic (they ain’t sayin’), it is unlikely that they will play enormous festivals with the same shambling, shit-faced style that they were notorious for in the 80’s. Prone to being barely vertical, playing whatever songs came to Westerberg’s pickled cerebellum, from bubblegum oldies to metal, their gigs weren’t even uneven, they were almost upside down–unlike most of their fans from that era, I didn’t really dig the drunken stumble-bunny schtick because I loved their songs.
I hope they’ll stick to them, from all of their discs and I guess I hope they come to California as well (by way of semi-disclaimer, Stinson and I are former bandmates in a short-lived “punk cover band” called Strap On Baster). At their peak, they were the open and honest bards of the dark ages known as the middle 80’s, at their nadir, comatose. Let’s hope for the former and not the latter from these truly American originals.