In celebration of the band with the most loving, adoring fans possible, below is a list of some of their greatest moments. This could easily be filled with their most popular “hits” like “Bastards of Young,” “Can’t Hardly Wait,” and “Alex Chilton.” Instead, compiled below is a list of some of their best lesser-known songs. So, you’ll be hard pressed to find any of them on Spotify’s top ten, on the soundtrack to a 90’s teen rom-com, or covered by Lorde anytime soon.
Number Ten: Customer. The Replacements’ early hardcore years are often ignored or just plain forgotten. They were too loose and shabby to ever be constrained to the genre, so while their first album Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash is rarely ranked amongst their best work, it still has some gems, and “Customer” is probably the greatest one. Paul Westerberg’s careful balance of humor and sympathy for teenage life is already well in place as “Customer” tells the story of a kid in love with a girl that works at a convenience store.
Number Nine: F*** School. Released after Sorry Ma, the band’s Stink EP seems like a more focused, concerted effort to produce a true hardcore record. It’s tighter, harder, and faster than their previous album, but it’s not without Westerberg’s rambling, mumbling vocals. On the classic “F*** School,” he often seems barely able to finish a full sentence, and features an explosive guitar solo by original lead guitarist Bob Stinson.
Number Eight: Color Me Impressed. “Color Me Impressed” is a pivotal moment in the band’s career. It is one of the first hints of something different going on within the band, and it as well as the album Hootenanny is when everything started to change. The album itself is easily their roughest, most disjointed effort, but it’s also their first to showcase moments of the sound they’d come to be known for. There are glimpses of real beauty as well like “Within Your Reach,” but “Color Me Impressed” is the true example of what would be fully fleshed out, later on, their next album Let It Be.
Number Seven: Sixteen Blue. It’s hard to find a song from Let It Be that isn’t regarded as a classic because the entire album is often regarded by fans as their absolute masterpiece, but “Sixteen Blue” is regularly forgotten alongside songs such as “I Will Dare” and “Favorite Thing.” Buried near the end of the record, “Sixteen Blue” might just be in the running for Westerberg’s most tender lyrics ever, detailing the angst and agony of “the hardest age”: sixteen. It’s probably the most sympathetic and beautiful song about teenage life since The Replacements’ own heroes, Big Star’s “Thirteen.”
Number Six: Hold My Life. Let It Be may be their most highly regarded album, but this writer just might have to vote Tim as his own personal favorite. It’s almost completely detached from their earlier records, but it’s what makes it the band’s first, true complete statement. It has an identity of its own and speaks for itself right from the off with the classic “Hold My Life.” The sound is bigger and poppier, and Westerberg sings more self-assuredly although his lyrics have never been more incomprehensible.
Number Five: Kiss Me On The Bus. From the same album, “Kiss Me On The Bus” could be considered a throwaway like “Waitress In The Sky,” but it’s also the band combining their effortless sense of humor and sexiness better than ever.
Number Four: The Ledge. Pleased To Meet Me showed the band’s identity between punk and pop start to split again, but it still managed to push out a few classics like “Alex Chilton” and “Can’t Hardly Wait.” “The Ledge” was one of their most controversial songs at the time—some argued it advocated suicide, but in an interview, Westerberg expressed the song was merely attempt to tell kids contemplating suicide that he’s been there himself and that it’ll get better. It’s a tough, heartbreaking song to listen to, but it’s undeniably one of the album’s strongest.
Number Three: Skyway. “Skyway” is the best example of the opposite personality of Pleased To Meet Me. It’s sweeter, softer, and one of Westerberg’s best love songs. Fans of their earlier material may feel isolated by it, but The Replacements have never hid their greater affection for fans that come to their shows expecting to hear songs like “Skyway” anyway.
Number Two: Nobody. Keen fans will recognize that I’ve skipped over Don’t Tell A Soul, but anyone that realized this will also understand precisely why I skipped over it. It’s not that it’s a terrible album—there are some great moments–but with only ten songs to the list, there are greater songs on their next and final album, All Shook Down. Essentially a Paul Westerberg solo album, it also happens to be their tightest work since Tim. “Nobody” shows Westerberg returning slightly to the classic Replacements sound while approaching it with a warmer, more mature manner.
Number One: Sadly Beautiful. From the same album, “Sadly Beautiful” is something of a swan song for the band. It’s soul-crushingly beautiful, but it’s also the sound of the end of an era for the band. Featuring a brief but stunning viola solo from John Cale of the Velvet Underground, “Sadly Beautiful” is the band’s forgotten masterpiece.