I was not introduced to The Replacement until well after college and the timing could not have been more perfect. I was working a low-wage dead-end job with bare minimum human interaction and watching my friends move on with their lives while I barely getting by. It was a very lonely feeling. It is not a new or unique feeling, we have all been there where changing our current situation seems beyond us and out of our control.
I was visiting a friend on my way home from a wedding and he gave me a burned copy of The Replacements 4th album Tim. I listened to it once on the way home and there was really only one song on it I liked. Then as weeks went by, I liked half the album. Finally, after about 3 months, I could not get enough of it. The album was no longer just speaking to me, it was speaking for me, it was preaching to the choir. It said “you not alone and your feelings valid.”
I have always found it hard to talk about why I love a work of art. It make me feel vulnerable and unguarded, you know that no one else is going to respond the same way as you but for some reason you need to pour your hear out about it in the vain hope they they might see some of what you see.
I want to highlight a few songs from Tim and what they mean to me.
...hold my life until I'm ready to use it
Hold my life because I just might lose it
If there was a better and poppier song about spinning your wheels, I have not heard it. There is a difference between living your life and just living your life, Paul Westerberg tries to find that distinction.
Time for decisions to be made
Crack up in the sun, lose it in the shade
Perhaps he never finds it, but do we really want our songs to tell us how to live our lives?
Waitress in the Sky - The only thing I can imagine is that a flight attendant made Westerberg, Chris Mars, and Tommy & Bobby Stinson miserable on a flight. As soon as the flight was over, they recorded this song instantly and put it on the album as payback. What jerks but it is kind of a hilarious idea. You really had to be mad at someone to record a song and make sure it was pressed to vinyl.
God, what a mess, on the ladder of success
Where you take one step and miss the whole first rung
My friend who gave me the album described the previous line as a pretty good metaphor for leaving college with a BA. Westerberg sings about how everyone wants to label his generation, but the labels just do not fit. They are products of the 60's, who's parents do not know what to do with them. Not sure if this was intentional but the first letter of the song title spells 'BoY'.
Left of the Dial – This is a time capsule of a song. The song refers to college radio stations and local free papers, items that no longer exist or have been marginalized. Westerberg seems to be writing about the lessons he would tell a young musician after hearing her song briefly on a college station. Maybe it is cautionary or a song about what Westerberg wish he was told before he began.
And if I don't see ya again, in a long, long while
I'll try to find you left of the dial
Little Mascara – I cannot tell if this is a break up song or not. Westerberg sings about a woman who only wants “... someone to take care of ya” and has not lost anything more than “a little mascara” in the process. In all my internet digging, I cannot find who or what Westerberg was referring to in this song, but he is inexplicably angry at someone who has wronged him. The pain that she causes the main character has made them minimize what they had. This is always the first step in a break up process after the inebriation. It does not mean they are right for saying what they are saying, but it sure feels good to say it. There is also nothing better than letting out a little anger by screaming the chorus “AFTER YOU CRY-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y”.
Here Comes a Regular – To me, the last song on an album is really the defining moment of the album. Is it going to wrap up the themes or just give you one last song. Will it be a period that ends a well composed sentence or an explication point after a word like 'YEAH' to send people out on a high note. 'Here Comes a Regular' is a painful period a the end of an aggressive sentence. After spending the whole album yelling and throwing tantrums, the character(s) we have met realizes they are no further along than they were when it began. It is okay to be disappointed and hurt but eventually you have to have to grow up or be one of those guys at the townie bar:
And even alongside ol’ sad eyes, who says
" Opportunity knocks once then the door slams shut"
All I know is I'm sick of everything that my money can buy
A fool who wastes his life god rests his guts
I am not saying that this album changed my life or made me want to make something more of myself. It just let me know that it was okay to go through what I was going through. I doubt my interpretation is what the band had in mind. If they told me tomorrow that I was completely off, I do not think it would change how I feel about it. That is the beauty of music, poetry, photography, etc... it is always left to you, the audience.