Saturday, June 15, 2013

Making sense of the Replacements reunion

It’s been a few days since Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson announced that they would be reuniting as the Replacements to play three shows for Riot Fest in Denver, Chicago and Toronto.  My initial thought when I saw the announcement was, “Ohmygodohmygodohmygod, the fucking ‘Mats!  THIS IS THE GREATEST THING EVER!!!” (I am a bit prone to hyperbole).  Having allowed the dust to settle, I am still fairly excited about the prospect (and my 17 year old self, who got into the Replacements just as they were quietly falling apart, is undoubtedly jealous), but there are several questions left in the wake of the resurrection of the ‘Mats:  namely, WHO are the “replacement” Replacements?  It’s clear who WON’T be there: original guitarist Bob Stinson died of a heart attack in 1995 and his replacement, Slim Dunlap, suffered a life-threatening stroke about 2 years back (the “Songs for Slim” ep being a method for Paul and Tommy to raise funds for his medical bills).  The only original member left standing is former drummer Chris Mars, but he has sworn off playing drums for ages to focus on his surrealist painting (though was kind enough to provide background vocals for the best of tracks) and he has been adamant that he is completely fine with Paul and Tommy touring and recording as the ‘Mats again.

The smart money, then, is on Minneapolitans Kevin Bowe on lead guitar and Michael Bland (he of Prince’s New Power Generation fame) on the skins.  Both recently stood in on the “Songs for Slim” charity ep, the first “new” record from the Replacements since 1990 (barring two subpar tunes hastily recorded for the 2006 best-of “Do You Know Who I Think I Was?”) and have dealt with Westerberg professionally in the past.  And that is not something to take lightly: Westerberg’s got a bit of a rep as a prickly pear and his relationship (professionally and personally) with Stinson has more ups and downs than the Cyclone at Coney Island.  So, two consummate pros who are willing to take marching orders are probably a safe bet to get through these tentative dates. 

But therein lies the rub…is this what fans want from “The Replacements”, a band whose boozy, sloppy shows are part and parcel of their mythology?  Probably.  Westerberg hasn’t toured since before his bizarre accident in ’06 (when he put a screwdriver through his hand, severing several tendons) and Stinson has put out a couple of largely decent solo records while also serving in the ranks of whatever merry band of Guitar Factory rejects that Axl Rose is trotting around as Guns n’ Roses these days (hey, it’s a great paycheck and likely an easy gig…one album every 12 years or so?  And you get to be the MOST respectable person in the band??? Sign me up!) – any opportunity to see these old friends and rivals share a stage is noteworthy.  And the songs…did I mention the songs?  This band will be charged with pulling off some of the best rock music of the past 30 years and many of these songs have a lived-in ethos that were well beyond their years when the guys were in their 20s.  So, as long as Westerberg and Stinson can translate the youth and vigor of the originals into something more world-weary without coming across as too “mature”, it should be a fun couple of gigs.  What remains to be seen, however, is if this is simply a victory lap (like Pavement a couple of years back or Pixies' seemingly unending trotting out of the “hits”) or the impetus for something new.  I am hoping for the latter, but at worst we will have three nights where we can revisit old friends and have a beer or twelve with the classics…

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed your thoughts on this and am totally in tune with your take on the reunion. I'm just excited to get the chance to see Tommy and Paul play together. I can't see them doing anything to tarnish the legacy.