40 Years Ago Today- Revisiting The Replacements Brash ‘Stink’ EP

During the Replacements’ approximately five-year and four-album tenure at Minneapolis’ Twin Tone Records, the band gathered a rabid fan following whose passion grew in almost inverse proportion to its size. But that was appropriate, at least at the point forty years ago when the quartet released Stink (6/24/82), so it only makes sense the ‘Mats (so nicknamed by their devout aficionados) would follow their debut LP in such impromptu fashion: as a quantum leap in the crystallization of their group persona, it’s the foursome’s last overt attempt to sound like hard-core punks (see 1983’s Hootenanny for further evolution and the next year’s Let It Be for the coup de grace).

According to Bob Mehr’s comprehensive book Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements, the original EP of eight cuts had its genesis in a tune Westerberg wrote in response to the burgeoning success of U2. Mentor/manager Peter Jesperson was so deeply enamored of “Kids Don’t Follow” that he insisted on the immediate recording of this direct riposte to the Irish band’s “I Will Follow.” And rightly so, for it’s an unabashed homage to the independence of the audience the Replacements were garnering. As with most of the rest of the approximately fifteen minutes of playing time (just slightly longer than the total duration of the four extra cuts added to the 2008 expanded CD reissue), the foursome thrashed it out with a combination of impatience and braggadocio, personality traits they also saw reflected in their followers (and vice-versa). 

An addendum to the aforementioned expanded reissue is a marked exception to such high-adrenaline proceedings. Paul Westerberg tendered his home demo of “You’re Getting Married” in an acoustic format that, according to the band’s biographer, guitarist Bob Stinson summarily dismissed as fodder for a solo album under the author’s own name. The outtake of Hank Williams’s “Hey Good Lookin'” is  an authentically rootsy contrast to the covers the Replacements usually proffered, –Sweet’s “Fox On The Run”and Kiss’ “Black Diamond”–but not that far removed from this ragged take on Bill Haley and The Comet’s “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock.” 

Fully half of the original material for Stink, including “Fuck School,” was composed by the whole quartet. It’s should come as no surprise then that the ‘Mats expressed such a dismissive attitude or the venal character portrait “Dope Smokin’ Moron:” such were shared sentiments and observations. “White And Lazy” mixes things up, at least stylistically, as it begins as something of a blues shuffle, complete with harmonica, but that’s before the quartet accelerates to a high-velocity similar to that breakneck speed preferred by their Twin Cities peers/rivals Husker Du. Meanwhile, “Gimme Noise” is white-hot too, at least in terms of musicianship if not the audio quality Steve Fjelstad engineered. The instruments blur together just like the emotions in the songs. 

As a result, Stink is as true to life as the artists and their audience wanted, at least at the time.  Westerberg later declared this Replacements’ recording ‘…rang falsest of them all,” but it did quite vividly capture the sound of a group at war with itself. From this now four-decade perspective, it’s easy to see how such a struggle would recur on Pleased To Meet Me, Don’t Tell a Soul and All Shook Down.

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