Last year, Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace was invited by American actress, singer, songwriter and activist Miley Cyrus to help spread awareness about the Happy Hippie Foundation – a non-profit organisation founded by the pop singer to fight injustice facing homeless youth, LGBT and other susceptible minority groups.
Musicians gathered at her Gainesville home to record some songs, and one of the tracks Cyrus and Grace performed together was a cover of The Replacements’ Androgynous, which also featured Joan Jett on vocals. Grace detailed her fondness for the Minneapolis four-piece and the delight she felt in introducing them to a whole new generation of people that had likely never heard their music before.
Here, Laura Jane gives us her top 10 Replacement songs – but will Androgynous be number one?
10. BLACK DIAMOND (Let It Be, 1984)
“I’m going to put Black Diamond in here, just because I’ve never heard a Kiss song that I like other than this one, and that’s because The Replacements are doing it!”
9. ALEX CHILTON (Pleased to Meet Me, 1987)
“I’m also going to throw in Alex Chilton, because I think it’s a fucking cool thing to do to celebrate your heroes. And to write a song as good as this for someone that you admire is awesome, because it exposes another generation of people to the music of – in this case – Big Star. The first time I heard this song I had no fucking idea who Alex Chilton was, but The Replacements exposed to me a whole new band and shared that with me, and as I learned more about The Replacements I learned about the history of Big Star. Their drummer Jody Stephens now works at Ardent Studios, where Big Star recorded all their albums, and The Replacements and Against Me! recorded there too…”
8. UNSATISFIED (Let It Be, 1984)
“Even Paul Westerberg pointed out that this song has no chorus. It’s just a verse, but it’s so great. It’s hard to explain sometimes why songs hit you, but this one has that feeling of longing that is present in most Replacement songs, and it’s conveyed very beautifully here. It’s an important question too. Are you satisfied?”
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7. ANSWERING MACHINE (Let It Be, 1984)
“As I learned about The Replacements, the mythology around them and the type of band that they were, I found out that they were a punk band but they were a real different type of punk band. When I was 16 or 17 years old I got really into the punk scene that was happening then in Minneapolis, which was more grindcore and crust and everything like that – not at all like The Replacements. But as I learned more about the Minneapolis punk scene I kind of went backwards and discovered them. They really epitomised what it was like to live in that area, where you have beautiful summers but these brutal winters, which especially back in the ‘80s were way more isolated. It’s a specific feel that they captured and embodied really well, and it’s a drunken feel too. This song brings back a lot of nostalgia.”
6. WITHIN YOUR REACH (Hootenanny, 1983)
“This was probably the first Replacements song that I heard because it was in that movie Say Anything. It’s such a lo-fi recording, but that’s all part of its charm and once again the lyrics are so good. It’s such a good song.”
5. HERE COMES A REGULAR (Tim, 1985)
“This is a real Minneapolis song that details the depression and bleakness of being an alcoholic and pissing your life away like that. That was kind of the juxtaposition that The Replacements had, where they were almost like self-admitting alcoholics who recognised the destruction within it all, but at the same time found celebration and empowerment in their existence. They always showed their grit and admitted the fall, but they never tried to glamorise the fall either – it was way more real than that. They were never about being pretty or doing interviews well, and they never pandered to anybody. They were a combustible band, and you never knew whether it was all going to come off the rails or not. But above anything else they were just great songwriters, and this is another great song.”
4. BASTARDS OF YOUNG (Tim, 1985)
“There is no greater fucking youth anthem than Bastards of Young. The opening scream is so good; it just hits you. And the video rips too. I remember the first time that I saw it and what a revelation it was, because it was just a static shot of someone – and you don’t even see their face – getting up, putting a record on the turntable, sitting down, listening to the song, and then at the end they get up and destroy the speaker. That’s the video. It’s black and white, and that’s it. Nothing else happens. It’s great! It’s such a middle finger to everything else.”
3. CAN’T HARDLY WAIT (Pleased to Meet Me, 1987)
“The guitar riff for this song is fucking rad, and it was obviously on a slightly later record where they were maturing as a band and trying different stuff, which explains the saxophone in there. It was recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, which is where we went to record our second record specifically because The Replacements recorded Pleased to Meet Me there. The studio lore there was that if you looked on the walls in Studio C, which had fabric on it for sound dampening, you’d notice little spots where apparently they’d gotten fucking wasted, thrown up into their hands and then thrown their puke all over the walls, which is why there’s all the little stains everywhere. But that song in particular, besides being super hooky and super catchy, is a song about touring. ‘I’ll write you a letter in the morning / Tonight I can’t hold a pen.’ It’s just such a touring song; ‘I’ll be home when I’m sleeping / I can’t hardly wait.’”
2. BEER FOR BREAKFAST (All for Nothing / Nothing for All, 1997)
“‘All I wanna do is drink beer for breakfast / All I wanna eat is them barbecue chips.’ You can’t fucking capture that kind of partying in a song any more than this. What else can you say? All I wanna do is drink beer for breakfast!”
1. ANDROGYNOUS (Let It Be, 1984)
“I don’t think I really discovered The Replacements until I was about 17 or 18 years old, and Androgynous was the first song I heard by them that absolutely floored me. Dealing internally with gender dysphoria at the time, I so strongly identified with it and felt like Paul Westerberg must surely be transgender. It’s such a beautiful, fucking poignant song that’s so well written, and the recording has that lo-fi quality that gives it real personality and charm. It makes you feel like you’re in the room with Paul Westerberg just sitting at the piano right in front of you, and he’s probably a little lit, you know – like a little drunk. When I listen to this song, I can still feel every emotion in every word.”
Laura Jane Grace’s book Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout will be published on November 24. Against Me!’s new album Shape Shift with Me is out now.