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The Replacements: The Sire Years

The Mats’ 1985-90 output, in 180g vinyl form.

The Replacements The Sire Years album cover

Depending on your personal viewpoint, The Replacements were either a successful indie band or a failed major label one. That this vinyl box set of their four studio albums, from Tim (1985) to All Shook Down (1990), is limited to 8,700 copies suggests the latter.

The Minneapolis rockers, whose highest-charting album was 1989’s Don’t Tell A Soul (No.57 with a bullet), were stuck chronologically and commercially between a cult 70s act like Big Star – their obvious predecessors in the messy, messed-up power pop stakes – and 90s behemoths Nirvana, who managed to take The Replacements’ alt.rock blueprint and run with it.

A companion piece to 2015’s collection of their early-80s Twin/Tone Records releases, this continues the band’s bumpy trajectory as they sign to Sire, reaching a gnarled pop-rock peak on the Jim Dickinson-produced Pleased To Meet Me (1987), featuring their timeless paean to their hero Alex Chilton. They flirt uneasily with the mainstream on Don’t Tell A Soul and commence freefall with All Shook Down (1990), aka the Mats’ own Sister Lovers.

From Tim’s Kiss Me On The Bus to the final album’s Sadly Beautiful (enhanced by John Cale’s weeping viola), here is a ragged encapsulation of songwriter Paul Westerberg’s descent from youthful exuberance to entropy and decay, via some thrillingly sloppy rock’n’roll.

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.