The Replacements - Don't You Know Who I Think I Was? Best Of - CD
Chronicling The Replacements' gloriously tempestuous decade on a single disc ostensibly seems akin to reading Cliff's Notes for the New Testament: No sooner do you grow fond of the protagonist than they've nailed him up. And if that comparison sounds a tad sacrilegious, perhaps you underestimate the Mats' hallowed place in modern rock history--and the hearts of their ardent fans. Yet somehow even this condensed format focuses the songs of Paul Westerberg and playing of bandmates Bob and Tommy Stinson and drummer Chris Mars into a dramatic arc that can't be denied. The initial tracks of this 20-track collection display a band joyously besotted by nascent punk thrash, yet one not so different from the scores of similar bands tearing up local clubs in the '80s.
But by the time of Hootenanny's "Color Me Impressed" and "Within Your Reach," something magical was clearly happening within Westerberg's songwriting and the band at large, even if it was largely inspired by terminal boredom, perpetual discontent, no small amount of alcohol--and an indifference to success that was one of their greatest charms. Within two years they'd produce one of the decade's--and perhaps rock history's--most compelling albums with Let It Be and the indie movement's first grassroots anthem in "Unsatisfied." They followed it up with Tim, a collection where Westerberg seemed able to conjure similar generational marching orders ("Here Comes a Regular," "Bastards of Young," "Left of the Dial") with preternatural ease; enraptured rock critics probably thought harder about his music than he ever did. Though highlighted by such gems as "Alex Chilton," "Skyway" and such pop-smart swan songs as "I'll Be You" and "Merry Go Round," the Mats' third act dissolved into the expected, if equally star-crossed solo career for Westerberg and the tragic death of Bob Stinson, events which can't help but cast a melancholy shadow over the unexpectedly gritty new old stock recordings "Message to the Boys" and "Pool & Dive."