Friday, October 23, 2009

My Music Year #8

Here's a case of not knowing what you'll come home with when you go shopping. I had received some Best Buy gift cards for Christmas and hadn't spent all of the money yet, so I was wandering around the music section. I walked by the "R"s and saw some of last year's Replacements reissues. I flipped through and came home with All Shook Down, their final album from 1990. I had owned the album once before but had gotten rid of it during the big 1994 depressed music purge and while I had replaced the rest of the Replacement discs, this one hadn't quite found its way back. Perfect.

I think there are many fans of the Mats who don't really think of this one much and that's a shame. Yes, I suppose it could be seen as a Paul Westerberg solo album but it's not labeled as such. And yes, there are a bunch of guest musicians like Benmont Tench and John Cale and Steve Berlin but their presence only serves to enhance the music. In the end, isn't the music really what the focus should be on?

The album gets out of the gate strong with the mid-tempo rock of "When It Began" and stays strong all the way through the piano-based "The Last." The songs are tightly constructed and the mood varies from light (the fumbled countdown of "Attitude") to the somber (the haunting "Sadly Beautiful"). It also contains one of my favorite-for-no-particular-reason lines - "The magazine she flips through/Is a special double issue/Smells like perfume/She leaves it on the plane" - which is followed by a little Steve Berlin sax riff in time with the snapping drums.

The reissue also contains demos for many of the songs as well as a couple of extra tracks. They are worth listening to but the main attraction here is the album proper, an underappreciated classic.

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