The American underground music scene was one littered with exciting young bands in the wake of punk rock in the 1980’s. Minneapolis, Athens, New York, and Seattle were just a few of the well known cities bristling with talented upstarts at various points during the decade. Many of these bands took the bait from the major labels and jumped at the chance at the big time. R.E.M. signed to Warner for 1989’s Green after a prolific run on indie label IRS. Sonic Youth jumped to Geffen after releasing 1988’s Daydream Nation. Dinosaur Jr. went for Warner subsidiary Sire in 1991 and released Green Mind. Each of these bands, and many others, achieved varying levels of success after deciding to go to the big time.
In 1985, The Replacements were at their creative peak, and decided to make the switch as well. 1984’s Let it Be was a quantum leap from their previous records. Combining the “power trash” (as opposed to power-pop) they were most known for with a distinct folk influence, as well Paul Westerberg’s deepening sense of angst-ridden lyricism, the album generated a buzz for the band throughout the country. Major labels came looking, and the band signed to Sire.
What came next was Tim, an album filled with what can arguably be said to be the best set of songs Westerberg ever put together. Anthems like “Bastards of Young” and “Left of the Dial” were at once anthemic, heartfelt, and accessible. The band also once again displayed a strong folk influence on several songs. “Swingin’ Party”, and especially album closer “Here Comes A Regular”, are heartbreaking looks a loneliness and isolation, and feature mostly acoustic instruments. They even took a stab at pure pop with first single “Kiss Me On The Bus”. All this added up to a success for the band that was far beyond what had come before. However, as undeniably great as this album is, it is far from perfect. In fact, with just a few touch-ups I could be writing about one of the best rock albums of the past 25 years.
The first problem that props its head is the production on “Hold My Life”. The song makes a fine opener, yet suffers from a production that fails to capture the urgency the lyric deserves. The reckless abandon drummer Chris Mars attacked earlier songs with is missed on this one, as it clicks along monotonously. The same can be said for Bob Stinson’s guitars, which seem tame here. There are live versions of the song from this era that drastically improve on this studio version.
The other problem with the album, which is always the problem with Replacement’s albums, is the filler. Each album in The Replacements catalog has its fair share of gems, but each has several songs that are far below the quality level set by the best ones. Here the filler quotient is met by a trio of songs - “I’ll Buy”, “Dose of Thunder”, and “Lay It Down Clown”. All three would not be missed if replaced by some of the stronger songs from sessions surrounding the album.
So, what could have been? Well, one of the great rock records of all time, that’s what. The following “replacement” songs are of a lesser sound quality than the album songs, only because they weren’t recorded with the intention of being released on an album. So the idea is that if recorded with the same spirit as the others there would be a more seamless flow than what these mp3’s can provide. With a tip of the cap to Stylus Magazine’s “Playing God” column, my re-imagined Tim could look something like this:
1. “Hold My Life.mp3” - I wouldn’t replace this song with this particular live version per se, but rather a studio one that adheres to its looser arrangement and rawer performance.
2. "Can't Hardly Wait (Tim version)" - the Pleased to Meet Me version is perhaps their most recognizable song, and the best version available. However, in ’85 the band wasn’t capable of its slick sound and horn accompaniment, and this primitive version is brimming with the drunken energy that the Replacements were known for at this point. Known as a great album closer on PTMM, this harder rockin’ version helps get “Re-Imagined Tim” off to a tremendous start.
3. “Kiss Me On The Bus” - album version. I’m gonna leave it as is, as it was a minor hit, even getting played on Saturday Night Live. However there are some versions out there that prove this song started out as a real thrasher, a la “Can’t Hardly Wait”.
4. "P.O. Box (aka Empty As Your Heart)" - This song may be from after the Tim sessions, but it does capture the sound of earlier Replacement’s albums. A hard hitting power-pop song that certainly improves on the pointless thrash of “Dose of Thunder”.
5. “Waitress In the Sky” - album version. The fun and, well, somewhat mean kiss off to poor stewardess service. A nice change of pace after 4 straight amped up numbers.
6. “Swingin’ Party” - album version.
7. “Bastards of Young” - album version. Again, no need to mess with greatness. Another one played on SNL.
8. “Nowhere is My Home (Tim demo)” - this song was recorded prior to the band’s departure from Twin Tone, and not only improves on “Lay It Down Clown”, but sandwiched between “Bastards” and “Left of the Dial” makes for one of the great 1-2-3 punches in rock history.
9. “Left of the Dial” - I wouldn’t dare.
10. “Little Mascara” - album version. It comes close to having the same problem as “Hold My Life”, but the song is a drop-dead classic, so leave it.
11. “Here Comes A Regular” - album version. One of the great album closers ever.
After you’ve downloaded these tracks go ahead and make yourself a “Re-Imagined Tim” playlist. Enjoy!