I don’t actually care what anyone else says. They can enshrine Nirvana and Kurt Cobain as the Gen X spokesmen all they want. They’re wrong. It’s the Replacements, led by the incomparable Paul Westerberg. And this is our theme.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not knocking Nirvana or Cobain, or their relevance to my generation. But the simple fact is that the Mats were there first, and they captured the mixed emotions of growing up in this world far more poignantly, in my opinion. Westerberg’s lyrics are sad, angry, sarcastic, ambivalent, tender, and often confused. The music was great, if a little shambolic. Tommy Stinson, Chris Mars, and Bob Stinson (later replaced by Slim Dunlap) just barely cohered most of the time, but it struck all the right emotional chords.
Of course, the Replacements were always their own worst enemies. They were terrific and talented, and Westerberg had major Pop aspirations. But they were also immature, unreliable, and inconsistent, mostly due to excessive drinking. A live Mats show could either be transcendent or trash. Their lack of commercial success has consigned them to the background, but I think they deserve to be pushed into the spotlight. If Kurt Cobain were still here, I’m sure he’d be happy to share.