The Replacements: The Sire Years

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

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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.