Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
This actually goes beyond music, this is history. This is when sloppiness became art. And sloppy wasn’t a dirty word any more. No. In this context, sloppy is the highest compliment that can be paid. Sloppy means a talented band that pretends they are a bad band, pretending they are a good band. I know that is mind-bending, but hear me out. They were a talented band that pretended that they were talent-less. Not just talent-less, but talent-less pretending to be superstars. That WAS The Replacements in 1986.
This is when Bob Stinson was still in the band. I think a lot of The Replacements died the day that Bob was kicked out of the band late in 1986. Paul Westerberg may have been the heart of The Replacements but Bob Stinson was definitely the soul. When he left, a part of the band became extinct. What is so amazing about this album is the fact that it is a complete “Mats” recording from 1986. Also, the sound quality is great. And for 1986, I would say perfect.
This takes me back to the 80s. I wish I could say I saw The Replacements in this era, but I didn’t. I didn’t see The Replacements until 1989, after they jumped the shark. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a great experience and a great concert, but it wasn’t 1986. Shout out to Larry Lichter and Doug Lay, who saw The Replacements during the golden era and were way ahead of the curve.
Those of you (like me) that weren’t fortunate or enlightened enough to see them in 1986 (I wasn’t either fortunate or enlightened), have no fear. This is your chance to experience The Mats when all was right with the world. Well far from it, actually. Talk about a fucked up year, 1986 was the leader of the pack. Well, this concert took place early in 1986, so let’s use most of 1985 and January of 1986, to be fair.
These were the highlights, or low lights, of 1985 and January of 1986. March 16, 1985—Terry Anderson is taken hostage in Lebanon. He was not released until December 4, 1991. April 23, 1985—Coca Cola retires “Old Coke” and launches “New Coke”. May 13, 1985—Mayor Wilson Goode of Philadelphia orders police to storm the radical group MOVE’s headquarters to end a stand-off. The police drop an explosive device into the headquarters, killing eleven members of MOVE and destroying the homes of 61 city residents in the resulting fire.
December 16, 1986—Mafia bosses Paul Castellano and Thomas Bilotti are fatally shot in front of Spark’s Steak House, making John Gotti the leader of the Gambino crime family. January 28, 1986—Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrates 73 seconds after launch, killing the crew of seven astronauts, including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe.
As you can see, we were dealing with some shit back in 1985/86. I didn’t even mention the AIDS crisis, the crack epidemic, or Jerry Garcia getting arrested. The Replacements were both our conscience and our fears back in 1986. They were also very critical of society and the political system. But, they are (and were) human and susceptible to the same temptations and vices as mere mortal men. Rumor has it they liked the drink quite a bit and were prone to foibles on stage due to their excessive drinking.
None of that really mattered all too much. It was the lyrics and the music that mattered back then. And The Replacement’s lyrics were the best. The Mats were already being named as influences back in ’86 before they even became “the next big thing”. In 1986, they were the best thing.
If you are a fan of pre Don’t Tell A Soul Replacements, you will love this. This is them at their best and sloppiest. When both trend lines on the graph intersect. That is this concert on February 4, 1986. I listen, and I feel all that angst, I wanna break something. Metaphorically speaking.
The Replacements didn’t invent the sloppy punk cover, but they sure perfected it. On this collection, The Mats cover Sweet’s Fox On The Run (Track 4), Kiss’ Black Diamond (Track 14), T Rex’s Baby Strange (Track 25), Vanity Fair’s Hitchin’ A Ride (Track 26), and The Beatles’ Nowhere Man (Track 27).
Not only did The Replacements do covers, but they played all of their popular songs, up to that point. Since most songs clocked in at under two minutes, they could play almost their entire catalog in one show. If you like Color Me Impressed (Track 2), Favorite Thing (Track 7), Unsatisfied (Track 8), I’m In Trouble (Track 17), and Waitress In The Sky (Track 21), you have come to the right place. There are also more than 20 other Mats classics on here.
When I say history, I mean it. This is when The Replacements were at their peak. The number of artists that they have influenced over the last 35 years is too large to write. Suffice it to say that the Mats are, and were, rock and roll heavy weights and this album is documented proof.