The Replacements – Let It Be (1984): Review

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Produced by Steve Fjelstad, Peter Jesperson and Paul Westerberg
Label – TwinTone

“Let It Be”, The Replacements fourth studio collection, came at a time when the band had become increasingly aware that to distance themselves from the hardcore punk scene they had unwillingly been attached to, there needed to be a concentrated shift in output to a more melodic, alternative rock sound that had been favoured by their heroes, Big Star. Recent touring incidents had almost split the band, following unhappy experiences as support to the new darlings of the college radio scene, R.E.M., and previously, a less than well received performance at CBGB’s. For chief songwriter, front man, and leading light Paul Westerberg, his ramshackle troop had reached a point where they needed an injection of maturity in their musical content, a more discerning listenership to enable an understanding and clear distillation of his open hearted lyrical barbs. The effort to pursue a platform to deliver his intense observations came in the form of some powerful ballads, “Sixteen Blue”, “Androgynous” and the stunning “Unsatisfied”. The self effacing, satirical nod to The Beatles for the title is an introduction to a collection that is a triumph of conviction, boldly moving to a mainstream accessibility previously unheard, and barring a couple of throwaway fillers, is almost perfect in its execution. Westerberg would confirm the band’s determination to progress, stating “We kinda gave up the ghost on Let It Be, and let a little bit of music happen, too. And that was the right mixture”.

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Although the band hadn’t created enough timely material to secure the services of R.E.M.’s Peter Buck to produce, his distinctive lead guitar on opener “I Will Dare” surges and propels a dynamic start that’s a confirmation that the band have changing musical aspirations. “Unsatisfied” is Westerberg’s response to The Rolling Stones “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” with acoustic and electric guitars revved up to provide the fuel to the teenage conundrum of angst, frustration and the perils of growing up in a world that doesn’t understand. Equally cathartic is the post pubescent “Sixteen Blue”, along with the wonky Big Star sounding piano ballad “Androgynous”. The band add a completely new dimension to Kiss’ “Black Diamond”, and it’s one of those rare occasions where the cover usurps the original recording. There are moments of mindlessness (“Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” and “Gary’s Got A Boner”), but given that The Replacements were always a band of extremes at each end of the scale, the high quality out strips the missteps of their hardcore past that originally inspired them.

“Let It Be’ sees The Replacements as ever burst with power and gusto, but in seeking a new identity, and allied with Paul Westerberg’s quality songwriting, they create an irresistibly contagious collection of alternative rock.

8/10

Track Rating
1 – I Will Dare (8)
2 – Favorite Thing (8)
3 – We’re Comin’ Out (7)
4 – Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out (7)
5 – Androgynous (8)
6 – Black Diamond (8)
7 – Unsatisfied (9)
8 – Seen Your Video (7)
9 – Gary’s Got A Boner (6)
10 – Sixteen Blue (8)
11 – Answering Machine (7)

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