I read in Rolling Stone this morning that Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson of The Replacements have reunited to record a couple of new songs for an EP. Former ‘Mats drummer Chris Mars has also contributed a track. All proceeds will go to help guitarist Slim Dunlap, who suffered a debilitating stroke earlier this year. (The EP isn’t out yet, but I’ll post a shout out when it is.) I love The Replacements, and I’m sorry this is what brought two of them back together; I’m also sorry that Chris and Paul couldn’t pull their heads out of their asses long enough to work together again. (I’m making an assumption about their relationship here; they could have just realized that they were both better off not working together, and have repaired their friendship, kind of like McCartney and Lennon.)
Slim Dunlap was the guitarist who replaced Bob Stinson in the ‘Mats lineup after Stinson got booted for drinking too much. (This would’ve been quite an accomplishment since the ‘Mats were well-known for their drunken appearances on stage–and pretty much everywhere else.) He meshed pretty well, and didn’t challenge Westerberg for leadership of the band. He played with them during their commercial and, arguably, creative peak. Pleased to Meet Me and Don’t Tell a Soul were both released during Dunlap’s tenure.
Westerberg, at least, had sobered up by the time they recorded Don’t Tell a Soul, but the first single still reeks with the alienation and ennui that always marked the best Replacements songs. “I’ll Be You” is alienation cheerfully sung, an attitude of, “Well, we can’t change it, so we might as well have a good time.” No one seems to know what “it” is. “A dream too tired to come true, left a rebel without a clue, and I’m searching for something to do.” That’s kind of what made Paul Westerberg and The Replacements the true voice of my generation. They were angry and lonely and alienated, and they didn’t know why. They had decent homes in the suburbs, cable TV, and shopping malls. Their parents were either divorced or too busy working. They played video games and dreamed of doing something interesting with their lives, dreams that were as vague and non-specific as their anger. Nothing seemed to have any shape or definition. Ambiguity was the name of the game, but there weren’t any rules.
I know there were other experiences of adolescence in the 1980s. I know there were people in my generation with genuine ambition, or with something to really be angry about. But that was my experience, and the experience of pretty much everyone I knew. A lot of it could be chalked up to being young; teenagers are chronically disaffected. There’s always been something else beneath the surface, though. Something dark and unpleasant. My generation is the first one in a long time whose standard of living does not exceed that of their parents. We are the generation of lowered expectations.
“And if it’s just a game, then we’ll break down just in case. Then again, I’ll tell you what we could do. You be me for a while, and I’ll be you.”