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  • The Replacements Albums From Worst To Best
8. The Replacements Stink EP (1982): Though nominally associated with hardcore, the 'Mats never fit comfortably with the likes of contemporaries Black Flag or the Circle Jerks or even the early work of their crosstown frenemies Husker Du. The Replacements were always too droll, too inherently tuneful, and too steeped in rock tradition to want to bulldoze it entirely. Nevertheless, that was the audience the young band mainly played to during the early years, and this second release was an attempt at burnishing their loud fast rules credentials, and they manage that goal with aplomb here. The roaring opener "Kids Don't Follow" is an instant classic, while "Fuck School" and "God Damn Job" are great fun and make their point before the first chord is struck. The inescapable intelligence and smirking humor makes the EP feel closer in kind to the Descendants than some of their angrier cohort, but it shreds with inarguable conviction. Having checked off that box, they'd soon be on to other things.

Rock and roll is a business largely founded on a kind of voyeuristic cannibalism: Take the most vulnerable, volatile performers you can find, place them in the most intense circumstances imaginable, and watch what happens next. A lot of times what happens next is grim, sometimes lethal. By rock and roll’s demented logic, that can be kind of OK too, as those artists failing to survive the crucible achieve a sort of special martyrdom, and also become reliable commodities in perpetuity. To term this attitude exploitative would be an understatement, but from Eddie Cochran to Elliot Smith, that’s a big part of how the game has been played.

Paul Westerberg always seemed to understand that for the kind of band he was going to run, danger was a part of deal. Indeed, the Replacements seemed to revel in it. One of their very first songs was a tribute to Westerberg’s great hero and soon-to-be inevitable heroin casualty Johnny Thunders. On “Johnny’s Gonna Die,” Westerberg sings with an offhand casualness: “Johnny always takes more then he needs / knows a couple chords / knows a couple leads / and Johnny’s gonna die.” The sentiment is decidedly not, “Hey, we should probably do something before Thunders finally kicks it!” It’s more like he’s noting the weather outside, an absolutely prosaic dispatch. Westerberg even ends the song with a sort of cheerful refrain of “bye, bye” — it was 10 years before Thunders would finally leave the building, but the Replacements had already skipped ahead to the eulogy.

For all of the tremendous hilarity surrounding the band’s legendary antics, the Replacements’ story is far more tragedy then comedy. The band wasn’t a suicide pact, but they were a sort of four-man Russian Roulette game. Excess bordered on mandatory. A much-repeated (and unconfirmed) story tells of Westerberg confronting the deeply troubled and dependent founding lead guitarist Bob Stinson before a show when Stinson had just finished 30 days in a detox clinic. Westerberg brings him a bottle of champagne and tells him: “Either take a drink, motherfucker, or get off my stage.” It doesn’t matter so much if this is true or not, simply because it is plausible. Being wasted was Bob Stinson’s brief in the Replacements — he really wasn’t good enough a technical player to keep around sober and levelheaded. The fact that he was eventually fired for being overly erratic is an unamusing irony.

The Replacements may have played Russian Roulette, but on some level everyone always knew who was going to lose. There is no prevailing evidence to suggest things would have turned out differently for Bob Stinson had he remained in the band. What happened was no one’s fault. For fans of the Replacements who came to the band after Bob’s position had been handed over to the excellent Slim Dunlap, the former guitarist was already a ghostly seeming figure. Old fans raved and rhapsodized about him, his younger brother Tommy was still there on bass, the protégé and obviously first lieutenant to Westerberg. Bob’s own playing on the older records was lively and inimitable, alternately ridiculous and moving. The Replacements were still great, still humming along on their zip wire to God knows where. But whatever happened to Bob? Understandably, the band preferred not to discuss him in interviews after his firing. The reports, few and far between, were never promising: Bob was back in Minneapolis, there were health problems, mental illness, drug and drinking binges. Bob was gonna die.

Every Replacements album is great (particularly recommended are the terrific 2008 expanded reissues, which all contain outtakes ranging from the amusing to the indispensable, and great liner notes from original manager fifth-Beatle figure Peter Jesperson). More than being great, every album plays a separate, important role in elucidating the near-mythic Joseph Campbell-like journey they had embarked upon. The story went inextricably like this: A ragtag band of misfits from an unfashionable outpost emerge from the punk-rock underground to become the unlikely practitioners of a great, raunchy, intelligent, and vulnerable sound that qualifies them for a time as nothing less than the American Stones. As their talents grow, so do their ambitions, but a fundamental contrariness and diffidence prevents them from behaving in even the semi-professional manner that the mainstream industry can trust with their investment dollars. As they chart a torturous one-step-forward, two-steps-back trajectory toward the grand mansion of rock stardom, there are (to quote Craig Finn) some massive highs and some crushing lows. There are casualties of every sort. And then, when the Replacements finally reach the doorstep of the grand mansion, they realize that the invitation was always illusory — they were never really getting in. And so, in a final series of disastrous concerts opening for the hugely popular commercial stalwarts Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, they essentially ring the doorbell and run away.

Since its release in the fall of 1990, it has been common to criticize the final Replacements release All Shook Down, a dour and dispirited affair which is nevertheless a masterpiece in the view of these writers. It’s not hard to understand what people find disagreeable about the album. Westerberg sounds utterly exhausted, even on the rock songs. The pervasive sense of fatigue, loneliness, and regret underscores even the numbers that try for a kind of forced conviviality. Music business allegories blur into heartbroken laments, and as often can be the case with the Replacements, it’s difficult to know where one begins and the other ends. Westerberg was in love with rock and roll, and feels badly cheated by it. The rest of the band is variously checked out and disinterested, and show up only here and there, giving the record the deserved reputation as something like Westerberg’s first solo album. In short, All Shook Down can be a tough hang — it’s full of weird and bad vibes. It is also not only an acceptable final note for the Replacements, it is the only way it could have ever ended. What did people expect? A Mardi Gras record?

Twenty years after the fact, the Replacements’ music still exhilarates the soul, and their story still bothers the mind. Paul Westerberg went on to become a dependable and occasionally exemplary solo artist, but never achieved the mainstream success that was often optimistically forecast for him even after the band’s split. Tommy Stinson turned out to be an excellent songwriter of his own accord, and has released a handful of terrific albums under different iterations. He also spent a long and peculiar time in musical purgatory, serving as Axl Rose’s hired sideman during the long running Chinese Democracy debacle. Chris Mars made a couple of cool solo records and subsequently dedicated himself to his work in the visual arts, which is awesome in a Ralph Steadman kind of way. He appears to have little interest in playing the drums these days, which is probably understandable. Likewise, Slim Dunlap made two estimable bluesy solo records, and recently suffered a stroke from which he is expected to make a complete recovery, and we wish him the very best. Bob Stinson died of an overdose in 1995, nine years after his exile from the Replacements and four years after the band had finally broken up. He was 35.

“If it’s just a game / then we’ll break down just in case,” Westerberg once implored in the closest thing the band ever managed to a hit single. And, just in case, they did.

Our Countdown of the Replacements’ albums starts here. Drunken brawling and/or sing-alongs in the comments.

Comments (72)
  1. Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes ’round!

  2. Tim over Pleased To Meet Me.

  3. And Let It Be over Tim over Pleased To Meet Me

    • Um, yes. Let It Be is like #1 by a long shot, I thought that was universally understood. Tim is great but a distant second. Pleased to meet me also a great record, but not even in the same league. The rest not worth being on the same list (although “Kids Don’t Follow” is a killer tune)

  4. I second Karm’s comment

  5. I can’t comprehend a ranking of Replacement’s albums that doesn’t have Let it Be at #1. “Unsatisfied”, “Androgynous”, “Sixteen Blue”, etc. Pure genius.

    I’d also move the other Twin Tone discs up above the last couple major label ones because I’ll always prefer the young brashness of them, but I can understand the ordering here based on the song craft.

    • Really, I usually stay out of these silly rankings, but to put anything other than Let It Be up top is to ridiculous. C’mon, you all are nuts.

      Good night to you.

    • agreed. Pleased to meet me #1! C’mon!
      The order should be as follows..
      best to worst
      1.let it be
      4.all shook down
      5. stink
      6.sorry ma
      7. pleased to meet me
      8. don’t tell a soul

  6. for the life of me, i can’t understand this site’s infatuation with can’t hardly wait, or pleased to meet me in its entirety for that matter. it’s slick, ballad-heavy, at times spotty while otherwise frequently good. but it also serves as a shining example of all material the replacements created post-bob stinson: songs and albums that were rarely remarkable, interesting or catchy.

    tim clearly represents everything anyone would ever need to know about the replacements: expert songcraft, monster riffs, great lyrics, laid-back production and only a sprinkling of ballads. so, number fucking one.

    • The acoustic and electric demos of “Can’t Hardly Wait” that come on the Tim reissue are both waaaay better than the Pleased To Meet Me version. As much as I love horn sections, that shit didn’t need no horn section.

  7. Sorry Ma should be ranked much higher than 7th. Let it Be is definitely my favorite though.

  8. Anybody else feel Sorry Ma is their best?

  9. Sorry Ma’ for me.

  10. I can’t see past Let It Be as their best, but is it only me who actually has a certain fondness for Tim’s production? I think it’s aged quite well and has a certain, almost nostalgic, quality to it.

    • Completely agree. It’s like how you’re supposed to say Bee Thousand is the best GBV album, yet all of their best songs are on Alien Lanes (for me, anyway). That’s how I feel about Tim. When I hear the band’s name, for whatever reason I think of songs off of Tim first. For me, it really doesn’t get any better than Left of the Dial.

  11. Stink last? Sorry Ma second last? Let It Be not no. 1? Oh my. This is too much. This is just silly. Literally every single album on here is out of place.

  12. Let It Be > All

  13. You can’t really go wrong with any that you listed but I think “Don’t Tell…” is always the most underrated. Critics always seem to imply it was a huge sellout, but like you stated, it still sounds good today. And I also think if you were trying to turn someone onto the band, “Don’t Tell…” is the best album for uninformed ears to listen to(“Let It Be” is right up there too). It’s should definitely rank higher than “All Shook Down”.

  14. Let It Be 1st, Hootenanny 2nd, Tim 3rd, Stink next, Sorry Ma, the rest of the major label stuff at the bottom of the list.

  15. one of stereogum’s sillier articles. any list like this that doesn’t have “let it be” at no. 1 is rejecting popular opinion just for the hell of it.

  16. This is how websites get ruined.

  17. Based on personal preference, with no regard for major label blah blah etc… I think my list looks something like this…
    01. Let It Be
    02. Tim
    03. Pleased to Meet Me
    04. All Shook Down
    05. Don’t Tell a Soul
    06. Hootenanny
    07. Sorry Ma
    08. Stink

  18. The ‘Mats are my favorite band ever so I love everything they’ve ever done but All Shook Down is probably my least favorite. It sounds like a band that’s totally over it. Paul basically whispers his vocals on the album and the rockers sound forced. Still love it though, ha.

  19. “And so, Stereogum continued it’s quest to rank every bands best album at number 3, hoping to dispel any beliefs they were in any way influenced by other “best of lists”. But lo, they failed to realize that those albums were ranked on top for a reason, because they were in fact the best of each respective band’s discography.

    And shame did fall on Stereogum.”

  20. Can we have a Westerberg solo worst to best now?

  21. How ’bout this?

    1. Mono
    2 .49:00
    3. Stereo
    4. Come Feel Me Tremble
    5. Eventually
    6. 14 Songs
    7. Dead Man Shake
    8. Grandpaboy
    9. Folker
    10. Open Season OST
    11. Suicaine Gratifaction

  22. Now I love the Replacements, LOVE them, but what the hell is going on with Stereogum these days? To badly paraphrase Bill Paxton “Maybe you haven’t been keeping up with current events, but why haven’t you been keeping up with current events?” Seriously, did Lana Del Rey die or something? What happened to actual news about music?

  23. Let It Be is ***OBVIOUSLY*** the best Replacements album. I mean, seriously, Pleased to Meet Me has the two filler songs “Shooting Dirty Pool” and “Red Red Wine” that should disqualify it immediately (in contrast, “Black Diamond” is weirdly compelling, and “Tommy Get His Tonsils Out” is actually funny). Plus I’ve always thought “The Ledge” was a bit overwrought, and “I Don’t Know” wasn’t terribly funny (ha ha, Replacements be fuck up, etc.). As for Tim, if any album (other than Raw Power) has ever desperately been in need of remastering, Tim is it. In its current state, it’s really just impossible to tell if it’s theoretically better than Let it Be if it just had better production. Regardless, it feels much more burned out than Let it Be, and on that basis alone I think Let It Be is preferable. Let It Be is, weirdly, just an album that’s brimming with infinite life.

  24. On a totally different subject: Kanye West has always weirdly reminded me of Paul Westerberg, on some really deep level. Both confessional, both fuck ups, both basically midwestern and earnest, both kinda underdogs, both with the same sort of smart aleck kid-in-the-back-of-class sense of humor, both super sensitive, etc.

  25. 1. Tim
    2. Let It Be
    3. Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash
    4. All Shook Down
    5. Don’t Tell A Soul
    6. Pleased to Meet Me
    7. Hootenanny
    8. Stink

  26. At least not many people will argue with the top three in this list. A holy trinity. That is, unless you like Bob doing his freaky guitar shit and prefer more of their early material.

  27. Love all the albums, but totally agree with the horrible production on Tim!!! Tommy has just finished Too Tough To Die by The Ramones with Ed Stasium, a brilliant and awesome sounding record. What the hell was he thinking on Tim?? Amazing songs though. Wish they would remix it!! And Stink contains one of their best songs, “Go” so despite some of the great tracks on Hooteanny, I gotta put it ahead. Plus the band is super tight on it too!!! And lastly, enough with all the haters regarding the horns and strings on “Can’t Hardly Wait.” All the alternate versions are great too, but c’mon, they were in Memphis, working with Dickinson and wanted to stretch out a bit. Put me in the minority, but I think they’re a subtle and cool dynamic.

    1. Let It Be
    2. Pleased to Meet Me
    3. Tim
    4. All Shook Down
    5. Don’t Tell A Soul
    6. Stink
    7. Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash
    8. Hootenanny

  28. So Paul, there’s a lot of love for you music out here. Thinking of getting a tour together anytime soon?

  29. You’re sweet, but you’re wrong. Anyone who puts “Let It Be” lower than #1 on any list of Replacements albums needs to listen to “Unsatisfied” on repeat for an hour or so until they realize how misguided they’ve been.

  30. I’m sorry but any list that puts “Tim” before “Let It Be” needs to be rethought.

  31. Dunno how I missed this – been one of those weeks – but this list is as nearly perfect! SO glad you put Pleased To Meet Me at #1, nevermind the Cult of Bob. I think I like Don’t Tell A Soul more than All Shook Down (songs, not production), and I think the inclusion of “Go” alone elevates Stink over Sorry, Ma, but in general, your list is my list. Well done as always, Bracys!

  32. I think we need a few more people to post about how Let it Be should be number 1. I don’t think we have enough of those.

    Any who, I’ve always been fond of the Hootenanny cover art. It gives a clever wink to its audience, I think, in how it copies those ’60s compilation LPs that Mercury and Capitol would put out (and my parents owned in abundance). Their music was always (seemingly) inspired by the pop song writing of that era even when sonically it did really seem so at face value. It was very fitting for that album. Maybe I’ve always read too much into that but whatever.

  33. Sorry Ma/Stink//Hootenanny/Let It Be and all downhill from there.

  34. Hootenanny is easily top four material, all shook down is the replacements going out with a whimper.

  35. Nice work. Pleased to Meet Me is my favorite Mats record too.

  36. Wow could not disagree more on this list.

    1. Let it Be
    2. Tim
    3. Sorry Ma…
    4. Hootenany
    5. Pleased To Meet You
    6. All Shook Down

    100. Don’t Tell A Soul

    • Don’t Tell A Soul REALLY suffers from slick 80′s production, and yet the songs that are strong enough to work against that are some of my personal favourites (it helps that DTAS was my first exposure to the ‘mats). Achin’ To Be, Asking Me Lies, I’ll Be You, Talent Show, Darlin’ One, and to a lesser extent They’re Blind and Rock ‘n’ Roll Ghost are full of injokes, hooks and inuendo ie. the recipe for any great Replacements song. Every one of their albums has rough patches with songs that sit awkwardly. Even the mighty LIB! I still love it, but if I’m putting a ‘mats playlist together, We’re Coming Out, Tommy’s Tonsils and Black Diamond won’t be there.

  37. Your list is complete shite Stereogum, and I’m American so it takes a lot for me to use that word (Shite!). If you think Don’t Tell A Soul is better than any of their other releases you don’t really understand the Replacements. The production is just too unMats and too horrible on Don’t Tell A Soul and Pleased to Meet Me. The only saving grace with Tim’s horrible 80s thin reverb/shitty drum sound production is that the collection of songs is so strong that it overcomes it all somehow. Don’t Tell A Soul is the only Replacements album I DON”T LOVE. I really don’t even listen to it, even though I think the singles from it are decent. Hootenanny is the most underrated of their releases. I think Hootenanny is the closest to documenting what the band actually was in total, before Paul’s songwriting started to take over. It is definitely their third best behind Let It Be and Tim. Pleased to Meet Me is up there too, but there’s a lot of filler on there, some top tracks yes, but much filler.

  38. I think it’s pretty much standard wisdom that the two top albums were Let It Be and Tim. My favourite is Tim because the songs – with a couple of exceptions – were so fucking good. I wish the production was better, of course. I totally understand why most people prefer Let It Be. Like many I’m kind of bewildered that anyone could choose Pleased To Meet Me as their top pick. I’m guessing that maybe it’s because it was the first album they heard. Or maybe it’s because of all their Sire records it is easily the best sounding, and has the most consistent set of songs. Or they were avoiding the stupid Bob versus Slim debate. Maybe it’s because Courtney Love said Nirvana named their album Nevermind after the song on the record. I don’t know.

    Also I wish there wasn’t so much ragging about Don’t Tell A Soul. When it came out I hoped it would break them to a much deserved wider audience. Didn’t happen though and I think it’s because the mats were neither fish nor fowl – they couldn’t play it straight if their lives depended on it. However, when they performed the album live Little Darling & We’ll Inherit The Earth came across as monster songs.

    1. Tim
    2. Let It Be
    3. All Shook Down
    4. Hootenany

  39. “I don’t give a single shit…” for the order SG put them in, but here’s my take. How can they put Hootenanny so far down on the list? Within Your Reach, Willpower and Color Me Impressed are stellar songs. Some of you are asking why they wrote this, be honest, most music junkies love this sort of piece (well, I do anyhow)

    1. Let It Be
    2. Tim
    3. Pleased to Meet Me
    4. Hootenanny
    5. Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash
    6. Stink
    7. All Shook Down
    8. Don’t Tell A Soul

  40. I can’t get behind any of these picks. Wow. Hootenany all the way back at 6? I feel like this list isn’t sincere. It’s more about generating a conversation…and here we are!

  41. I agree with your #1 pick. I was 15 in 1987 and living in a medium sized Midwestern town, so Pleased to Meet Me was my first chance to hear the Replacements. It’s still my favorite. I Will Dare is one of the greatest songs of all time, but most the rest of Let it Be doesn’t match the hype for me. Tim and their last two albums are also on the top half of my list. I guess you can shoot me for liking their more “mainstream” work.

  42. Wow… not to be a dead horse, – too late, but shouldn’t the title of this be The Replacement Albums in random order?

  43. Seriously…this article puzzles me. As do some peoples rankings but to each his own opinion. I respect that.

    Mine list from best to worst…is basically in the order of release

    (1) Sorry Ma
    (2) Stink
    (3) Hootenanny
    (4) Let It Be
    (5) Tim
    (6) Please To Meet Me
    (7) Don’t Tell A Soul
    (8) All Shook Down

    The first three releases are the true Replacements I knew and loved. Best tour / live performance for me was easily Please To Meet Me. I really think that is when they peaked.

    I understand that “Let It Be” should be considered #1 but a lot of that is not necessarily the album itself but the content in which it was released. A period of chnage in our lives, in the what was happening around us and the scene at the time, and a time of transition for The Replacements as well as their final indie recording.

  44. Looks like a list compiled by someone who “discovered” the ‘Mats by listening to Let It Be, Tim or Pleased to Meet Me. After Let It Be started getting some play on college radio stations, it seemed everyone was a ‘Mats fan but none of them heard any of their earlier work. I would play Hootenanny, Sorry Ma, or Stink for them and they would refuse to believe it was the ‘Mats.

    If you started by listening to those middle albums, I think there is a great tendency to discount their early work.

    Of course if you first hear the ‘Mats live, especially in the early 80s and then bought an album, you could have sworn there had to be two different groups – one in studio and one live.

    BTW where does Sh!t Hit the Fans fall on the list ;-)

  45. Right. If your first exposure to The Replacements took place in early 80′s, then it’s likely these might be your faves.

    Westerberg, in a mid-80′s interview, made an interesting observation: He said – and I paraphrase – that girls occasionally snickered as he passed them on Mpls sidewalks, as if to suggest that he was washed up. This was circa era Tim. In other words, they were suggesting, ‘He used to be one of us – a punk.’

    Something to bear in mind. While ‘Skyway’ may be pretty, it is about a mall walkway. Westerberg himself stated that ‘Unsatisfied’ is – again, I paraphrase – the drugs wearing off. ‘Black Diamond’ isn’t that interesting. Whether it was tongue in cheek, Paul Stanley wrote one good song – namely ‘Hard Luck Woman’ – and he lifted it off ‘You Wear It Well’, which came out the year prior. . And Cougar lifted from both when he wrote ‘Sugar Marie’ a couple years later, but I digress. Black Diamond? Westerberg should have culled from Montrose’ first album for a cover.

    The choice to leave ‘Can’t Hardly Wait’ off Tim is akin to throwing the band a songwriting royalty bone. The songwriting credits on Tim reveal that the weak song(s) were band efforts; in effect; 75% more fat (nod to Chris Mars). ‘Can’t Hardly Wait’ is a Tim and Bob song.

    Tim is best, hands down. It’s got Bob, great songs, and Westerberg jettisoning a gem in favor of passifying the crew.

    All Shook Down is the only album Replacements album I listen to in its entirety today. It holds up well – or maybe I’m old. Westerberg himself thinks it may be the under-rated gem of the lot. Nirvana’s Nevermind is the 90′s Let It Be equivalent. Great stuff, but you had to be there in the moment. I can’t be bothered today, with sites like Daytrotter.

    I agree with some of the posts re: Pleased To Meet Me. Good songs. Shitty recording. How can the author claim that anything off Pleased sounds better than ‘Swinging Party’ or ‘Here Comes A Regular’?

    Finally, I first saw The Replacements in winter ’84/85, and they opened with ‘Take The Last Train To Clarksville’. Greatest band ever.

  46. I must confess… as much as I love “Let It Be”, PTMM is easily my favorite and arguably my favorite album of all time.

  47. I don’t understand why Tim and Pleased to Meet Me continue to get the praise they do. Sure, both albums contain some incredible career highlights, especially when looking at the second half of their career, but both are also bogged down with a significant number of weaker tracks. The Replacements of Twin/Tone are the Replacements for me.

  48. (1) Let It Be
    (2) Sorry Ma
    (3) Hootenanny
    (4) Tim
    (5) Stink
    (6) Please To Meet Me
    (7) Don’t Tell A Soul
    (8) All Shook Down

    Man, y’all pooed the bed with your list. The ‘Mats were not about polish and shine. Mind you, there were good tracks on “Don’t Tell a Soul” and “All Shook Down”, but they’re essentially Westerberg solo albums. The ‘Mats will always be defined by me by the Twin/Tone years.

  49. Not a comment on The Mats, but I gotta say this is the best piece of music writing Ive read in years. Nicely done.

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