Rock's perpetual adolescents have finally grown up
DON'T TELL A SOUL
By ALFRED ARMENDARIZ
WITH A COVER STORY in Musician magazine, a lead review in Rolling Stone, the most played song in Boston, and an album which is outselling The Traveling Willburys and REM at local record stores, it seems like The Replacements have struck gold with their latest album Don't Tell A Soul. The release is the seventh album by this Minneapolis quartet and shows a sharp change in style since the recording of their last album Pleased To Meet Me. The soul of this album, as is always the case with the band's work, is singer/songwriter Paul Westerberg's playful lyrics. However, they trade in their traditional "booming bass guitar/running electric guitar" sound for a more subdued sound composed of layered acoustic guitar and keyboards. Yet, Don't Tell A Soul is as much a reflection of the rock and roll spirit as their more spontaneous work from the past eight years. The band explores new musical styles and has toned down the self-abuse that has founds its way into Westerberg's lyrics in the past. The Replacements, rock's perpetual adolescents, have finally grown up and made another excellent album that is unlike anything they've recorded before.
The Replacements have never been the type of band to do things by the book. With album titles like Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash and The Replacements Stink and songs like "Gary's Got A Boner" and "Bastards of Young," it's hard to see how the band expected anyone to take them seriously. Many of Westerberg's songs portrayed the band as insecure, fun-loving guys who were lucky to just get out of bed in the morning. They never spent an excessive amount of time or money on their albums, partly because they didn't have much money to begin with and partly because they thought they had better things to do with it anyway.
Unlike many bands which give in to external forces to change when they sign to a major record company, The Replacements were reluctant to change their style when they signed to Sire Records in 1985. In fact, the video for their 1987 song "The Ledge" was snubbed by MTV for its lyric content. Just when their juvenile attitude was on the verge of becoming predictable, Replacements Westerberg, Slim Dunlap, Tommy Stinson, and Chris Mars developed a more rehearsed sound on Don't Tell A Soul to accompany Westerberg's lyrics. The Replacements sound like they are ready to accept their r^ole as leaders of the Midwest's underground rock scene.
The album opens with "Talent Show," a number alluding to the band's beginning days as a bar band. The first single of the album, "I'll Be You," is an addictive number that describes a life of dissatisfaction in which Westerberg offers to trade places with someone else as a way out of his current problems. The track "We'll Inherit The Earth" is an animated song of youth alienation and separation in which Westerberg takes a gloomy look at life. "We'll inherit the earth, but we don't want it. It's been ours since birth, what ya doing on it?" asks Westerberg.
With the sudden success of Don't Tell A Soul, The Replacements may actually have to face the realities of being a popular band in America. Radio and MTV airplay have excluded them in the past, but perhaps no longer. The Replacements now seemed poised to lead this country's rock scene into the 1990s.