INTRODUCTION: For a band who were notorious for destructive live shows and wholehearted rejection toward achieving mainstream fame, creating an album that shaped the legacy and direction of alternative music is a pretty big feat. Released in the era when alternative music was primarily driven by post-punk bands, The Replacements defied all standards of what alternative music “should” be. They didn’t want to become the next Smiths or Cure — rather, they took inspiration from acts like Bob Dylan, Big Star, Tom Petty, and The Clash, and transformed these influences into their own brand of humbled (yet chaotic) alternative punk, as seen in 1985 release Tim. Without The Replacements, the state of alternative music as we know it today would be vitally different.
Hold My Life: Album opener “Hold My Life” is an upbeat, declarative song about admitting irresponsibility in one’s life. While the lyrics are more of fragmented phrases than deep muses, the structure arguably represents the mindset of lead singer, Paul Westerberg. In an anthemic chorus, he declares: “and hold my life, until I’m ready to use it, hold my life, because I just might lose it.”
I’ll Buy: A twangy, rowdy track -taking inspiration from both blues and 1950s rock ’n’ roll- shows Westerberg singing about money. Yet, money in this case acts somewhat as a metaphor. In the chorus, he yells “anything you want dear, is fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, everything you say dear, I’ll buy, buy, buy, buy, buy.” While the verses see him discussing actually spending money, the chorus seems to have an underlying meaning.
Kiss Me on the Bus: Heavily driven by an urgent drum beat, country-style solos, and hazy guitars, Westerberg urges his love interest to give him attention, stating in the chorus “kiss me on the bus, kiss me on the bus, if you knew how I felt now, you wouldn’t act so adult now, hurry, hurry, here comes my stop.” Honestly? Good song, but verges into creep territory.
Dose of Thunder: Definitely a filler-track at best, but the instrumentals are admittedly impressive. Rather than sticking to their traditional Tom Petty-esque alternative music, The Replacements take a harder-hitting approach on this track. Featuring screamed lyrics, yelling in the background, and metal-inspired guitar solos, the instrumentals are enjoyable — but, in comparison with the result of the album, the track sticks out like a sore thumb.
Waitress in the Sky: A breezy, rockabilly song about…misogyny? According to an interview with novelist Bob Mehr, Westerberg stated this song was inspired by his sister’s negative experiences as a flight attendant. With lyrics such as “you ain’t nothing but a waitress in the sky […] treat me like a bum, don’t wear no tie,” it’s easy to get the wrong idea — however, “Waitress in the Sky” is Westerberg’s tongue-in-cheek impression of the misogynistic men his sister would serve.
Swingin’ Party: One of the most popular Replacements songs, “Swingin’ Party” is a melancholic recollection of spending your youth partying. While it sounds like a seemingly superficial notion, the song dives into Westerberg’s fears and regrets over spending his youth intoxicated, stating “if being afraid is a crime, we hang side by side, at the swingin’ party down the line.” It’s one of the more touching songs on Tim — you can hear the tentativeness and emotion in Westerberg’s vocals.
B*****ds of Young: Back to their rebellious roots, track seven opens with an impassioned scream from Westerberg, then dives into upbeat, alternative-punk instrumentals. Released in the midst of Reagan’s presidency, Westerberg expresses frustration with the generational differences prominent at the time. Lyrics such as, “dreams unfulfilled, graduate unskilled […] clean your baby womb, trash that baby boom […] the ones who love us least are the ones we’ll die to please, if it’s any consolation, I don’t begin to understand them” all detail the generational divide between Baby Boomers and Generation X.
Lay It Down Clown: I have absolutely no idea what this track is about. With vague, nonsensical verses and repeated chants of “lay it down clown,” it’s difficult to not write this track off entirely. However, while definitely a filler track (and the least impressive off Tim), the instrumentals are fast-paced and chaotic, with rockabilly influences.
Left of the Dial: For a band whose members never graduated high school, it’s ironic they became the darlings of college radio — which is exactly what Westerberg pays tribute to in this track. Before the invention of the digital radio most of us are familiar with, college stations were typically to the left of the dial, where The Replacements received airplay. Yet, while the track is indeed an ode to college radio, Westerberg explores another narrative within the track: hearing his love interest’s band on college radio. The lyrics suggest that while he’s unable to physically see her, he’ll know he can find her on the left of the dial. The lyrics are wistful and introspective, while the instrumentals are melodic and precise — in my opinion, the best performance on the album. It goes without saying this is my favorite Replacements song of all time.
Little Mascara: Another narrative driven track, “Little Mascara” is a compassionate story about a single mother whose husband left her and her children alone. The lyrics describe the loneliness and frustration the woman feels regarding her struggles to make ends meet: “all you ever wanted was someone to take care of ya, all you’re ever losing is a little mascara.” It’s a heartfelt and empathetic song, highlighted by jangly guitars and a particularly impressive vocal performance from Westerberg.
Here Comes a Regular: The last track on Tim is a heartbreaking, personal narrative of Westerberg’s experiences with alcoholism. It’s the most stripped-down song, with just an acoustic guitar, Westerberg’s broken-sounding vocals, and a hint of violins. The lyrics describe his spiral into alcoholism — “and sometimes I just ain’t in the mood to take my place in back with the loudmouths, I used to live at home, now I stay at the house […] here comes a regular, am I the only one who feels ashamed?” Though the lyrics suggest a moment of clarity, the song ends on a call-back to the first verse, suggesting he’ll continue to pass time in a bar. Though difficult to listen to, it’s a beautifully honest and self-aware song. Thankfully, Westerberg has been sober since 1991.
Tim is likely the finest work The Replacements ever put out. While formerly known for their destructive, drunken stage antics and rowdy roadhouse music, their first major label album shows the band maturing — while still holding onto the aspects that make them both infamous and alluring. Where past albums felt scattered and chaotic, though still enjoyable, Tim shows The Replacements embracing a more introspective and respectable image, all while retaining the edgy charm that created an underground cult following. It’s not a perfect album — “Dose of Thunder” and “Lay It Down Clown” are certainly weak, but the brilliance of the rest of the album easily overrides two filler tracks. Unfortunately, soon after the release of Tim, the same infamous legacy that made the band so attractive is exactly what caused them to self-destruct. It’s a shame to think of what they may have been capable of past Tim, but perhaps the history and legacy surrounding the album is a part of what makes it so enjoyable. 4.5/5 Spinnaker Sails.
Standout Tracks: “Hold My Life,” “Swingin’ Party,” “B*****ds of Young,” “Left of the Dial,” “Little Mascara,” and “Here Comes a Regular.”
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