Don't You Know Who I Think I Was? The Best Of The Replacements
By: Eric Greenwood
The Replacements just couldn't get it right. The punks wrote them off as nothing more than a drunken bar band, while the drunks in bars wrote them off as drunken punks. Nobody would claim them except for the critics and scattered, underground misfits, but being critical darlings never translated into real success- at least not the kind that mattered.
I guess the common denominator was being drunk and at that The Replacements excelled like no other band. From their earliest drunken hardcore thrashes, the seeds of Paul Westerberg's melodic genius were sewn. Out of context, "Takin' A Ride" and "Shiftless When Idle" could easily have been chalked up to your typical punk of the era, but Westerberg's lyrics demonstrated an aptitude for wit and insight that the average punk band sorely lacked.
This compilation could hardly be accused of milking any sort of cash cow, since the milk was always pretty much dry. The Replacements did everything they could to avoid success, sabotaging themselves in every commercial outlet imaginable with their relentless drunken antics and don't give a fuck attitude. What this compilation does is give old fans and potential new ones a definitive collection, since 1997's All for Nothing/Nothing for All omitted the band's first three records on Twin Tone.
Rhino's reissue here is a precursor to a long-planned box set, and it runs chronologically, following the band's infamous "rise to competence" and proving that few vocalists shredded their vocal cords as haphazardly as Paul Westerberg did (just listen to "Unsatisfied", if you don't believe me). Each song hints at the brilliance of the next, starting with Hootenanny's "Within Your Reach" and then shedding skin seamlessly to incorporate so many eclectic styles before things petered out by 1989's blatant stab at long-evaded commercial success, Don't Tell A Soul.
The 'Mats recently had a mini-reunion to record two tracks that cap off this collection, "Message to the Boys" and Pool & Dive", both not embarrassing but too little too late. Even their reunion was slack and underwhelming, but like their classic "Bastards of the Young" said: "It beats pickin’ cotton and waitin’ to be forgotten."