In my waxed-up hair and my painted shoes
September 28, 2019 1:15 PM   Subscribe

When The Replacements made 1989’s Don’t Tell a Soul, their label was pressuring frontman Paul Westerberg to write songs that could get played on the radio. Producer Matt Wallace’s mixes were dismissed and the label hired hit-maker Chris Lord-Alge (Steve Winwood, Chaka Khan) to put an 80s radio sheen on the songs. "I'll Be You" would become the band's only radio hit, but many fans and even the band members themselves hated the glossy sound. 30 years later, The Replacements’ Don’t Tell a Soul gets the second life it deserves with a new box set, Dead Man’s Pop.

Consequence of Sound:
30 years later, Wallace returns to the mixing board for a completely new mix that fits with the band’s original vision, and offers a completely new perspective on Paul Westerberg’s songs. The collection also ties together a number of rarities from the era, including early demos, tracks recorded with Tom Waits, and a complete live performance recorded at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on June 2, 1989.
Rolling Stone interviews Tommy Stinson about the new box set
We wanted to be successful with everything we did. But we also were the first ones to fuck it up half the time. … Most of the time in fact. … OK, all the time.
Pitchfork:
What if they hadn’t released a record full of slick, radio-friendly pop-rock? With proper production, could this have been another classic? The question is asked because Don’t Tell a Soul was, for many years, the most maligned Replacements album, even if its reputation has improved some since then. Dead Man’s Pop attempts to answer these questions.
The Ringer: The 12 Essential Tracks on the 60-Track Replacements Box Set ‘Dead Man’s Pop’


Matt Wallace Mixes:
Talent Show
I'll Be You
We'll Inherit the Earth
Achin' to Be
Darlin' One
Back to Back
I Won't
Asking Me Lies
They're Blind
Anywhere's Better Than Here
Rock N' Roll Ghost

Assorted other highlights:
Portland (Alternate Mix, Bearsville Version)
Last Thing in the World
Dance on My Planet
We Know the Night (Full Band Version, featuring Tom Waits)
Alex Chilton (Live at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, WI, 6/2/1989)
posted by DirtyOldTown (33 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
Outside of the expected dyanmic range compression reversal, the main things I notice are the de-BonJovi-ification of the vocals, with Paul and Tommy back to their normal sloppy overlap. The instrumental fills are clearer and sound better. Slim's playing is more prominent and sounds great and there are odd choices you couldn't hear properly before, like banjo on "Talent Show."

For best sampling results, skip past the tracks you alreayd liked and click on the ones you found most treacly and intolerable. "We'll Inherit the Earth" sounds like a Mats song now and not a low-rent US U2.

Don't get your hopes up for the Waits stuff, as they're all positively hammered.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:23 PM on September 28, 2019 [4 favorites]


👀!!!!!!!!!
posted by rather be jorting at 1:40 PM on September 28, 2019


It's too late to turn back, here we go!!!
posted by rather be jorting at 1:42 PM on September 28, 2019 [3 favorites]


Which ones are the Waits tracks?
posted by Paul Slade at 1:51 PM on September 28, 2019


Which ones are the Waits tracks?


I only linked one above, because they're really bad. SO DRUNK.

Here are some more:
If Only You Were Lonely
Lowdown Monkey Blues
We Know the Night (Rehearsal)
I Can Help
Date to Church (Matt Wallace mix)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:57 PM on September 28, 2019 [3 favorites]


I always loved this album, but I think I was just emotionally primed to take in that stuff at just the right time. I was 13 in 1989 and discovering all the indie legends just as they were transitioning into their major-label careers. So even though a whole lot of the edges had been sanded off by '80s underground standards, it still sounded big, exciting, and transgressive to young-adolescent me. Left of the dial, indeed.
posted by mykescipark at 2:11 PM on September 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


Wow, what a difference. This rules.
posted by rodlymight at 2:30 PM on September 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


I'd love to know what that odd squawking instrument in the margins of this mix of "I'll Be You" is. It sounds like a goose, or the Charlie Brown teacher laughing, or strings as heard through a tin can telephone.

I think it was there before but it wasn't half as prominent.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:53 PM on September 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


me (settling into the distortion of "I Won't" as it ought to have been): ah, home

---

Seriously, though, you can tell the difference in mixing immediately with "I Won't." The original mix is defanged, tame, a touch too slow and sedate for the energy characteristic of the Mats' spirited earlier tracks - but on Dead Man's Pop, the song comes alive! It rules!! The piano still sounds a little out of place, but now it adds more to the overall honky tonk kinda vibe instead of being faintly distracting.

Man, I dig this. I haven't been reading p4k regularly in a while, so I would've missed out on this release until the next time I searched for "Talent Show" on Spotify (which, to be fair, is semi-often but not as often anymore due to me instinctively wanting to avoid re-playing my favorites too much). I remember being more willing to give Don't Tell a Soul a chance when I got to that section of the book Trouble Boys, but yeah, listening to the glossy production was still rough-going.

Finally getting to hear these mixes feels good, man.
posted by rather be jorting at 2:57 PM on September 28, 2019 [3 favorites]


> I'd love to know what that odd squawking instrument in the margins of this mix of "I'll Be You" is. It sounds like a goose, or the Charlie Brown teacher laughing, or strings as heard through a tin can telephone.

I think I've always processed it as something stringy rather than brassy or woodwindsy, maybe like an oddly-played slide guitar? But now I'm curious, too!
posted by rather be jorting at 3:02 PM on September 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


My new fave may be "They're Blind." Leaving Westerberg's vocals single-tracked and unenhanced, and having the backing vocals just being Tommy and Slim's uneven yelping makes the whole thing just play so much warmer and more sincere. I also like Slim's solo toward the end. Always a great song, but the original was just multi-tracked into oblivion.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:06 PM on September 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


Which ones are the Waits tracks?
I only linked one above, because they're really bad. SO DRUNK.


Yeah, I see what you mean. Kind of like the missing link between the Troggs Tapes and Derek & Clive.
posted by Paul Slade at 3:57 PM on September 28, 2019


Here's an article from Mix magazine about Wallace's work on "I'll Be You".

> I'd love to know what that odd squawking instrument in the margins of this mix of "I'll Be You" is. It sounds like a goose, or the Charlie Brown teacher laughing, or strings as heard through a tin can telephone.
>> I think I've always processed it as something stringy rather than brassy or woodwindsy, maybe like an oddly-played slide guitar? But now I'm curious, too!

I hear it as strings too, someone playing slide on a laptop steel guitar or maybe on an electric mandolin? And likely a distortion pedal.

Still unanswered is my question: would a hypothetical Canadian Paul Westerberg really be 'lonesome' instead of 'lonely'?
posted by theory at 4:12 PM on September 28, 2019 [2 favorites]


If own-some you were lonesome...
posted by rather be jorting at 4:40 PM on September 28, 2019


Thanks for this; really great. "I'll Be You" always a big favorite, no matter the mix.
posted by Rash at 6:09 PM on September 28, 2019


It’s so much better than DTAS. New sequence is great. “Back to Back” is now a good rock tune. “I Won’t”, “They’re Blind”, “Darlin’ One”, “Talent Show” all stand out. It’s fascinating what a true reimagined mix can do. I wish more of my favorite albums would get this kind of treatment!
posted by Ike_Arumba at 6:47 PM on September 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


The live show that takes up two discs is pretty great, too — the setlist is just insane, the band had so many great songs at that point. A few tracks had been available on an old promo disc (Inconcerated) that came out in the 1980s, but the whole show is outstanding — I actually like it better than the celebrated Live at Maxwell's album that came out last year. There's an interesting bit after "Darlin' One" where Paul tunes up and starts doing "Sadly Beautiful," which wouldn't show up on record until All Shook Down came out, and he just stops after a couple of lines, mutters "I ain't gonna do it," and launches into "I Will Dare."

The Waits stuff is marginalia for sure, but I laughed a lot while I listened to it with my wife, who is a huge Tom Waits fan. Somewhere in that Rolling Stone interview Tommy mentions that Tom was trying to quit drinking at the time which, whoops, you picked the wrong studio buddy.

Love the banjo in "Talent Show." I was shocked at how improved some of these songs are. It's amazing how much more instrumentation you can make out when the drums aren't mixed at 11.
posted by Mothlight at 8:14 PM on September 28, 2019 [3 favorites]


Re: the squawking instrument in I’ll be you: there is a very quick shot around the 2:10 mark in the video of someone playing a guitar in their lap. It’s right after Paul throws the drumsticks.
posted by FallibleHuman at 12:15 AM on September 29, 2019


What's really odd is that while Warner was trying to 'radio' the 'Mats up, the label took one of the more raucous and hilarious tracks from the Waits sessions ("Date to Church") and released it on one of their quirky sampler CDs back in 1989.

Maybe that was the label's way of saying "yeah, don't worry, they're still drunk".
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:16 AM on September 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


Good catch. I think that night be a dulcimer. I have a friend who's a music producer. I'll ping them and see what they say.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:17 AM on September 29, 2019


NOW DO TIM.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:22 AM on September 29, 2019 [3 favorites]


In the Rolling Stone interview, Tommy suggests Tim wouldn't fill out a boxed set very well.
I think Tim is the one that has the least amount of extra songs around. Maybe a song or two or a demo here or there. We were going through shit with my brother, Bob. And we had been touring so fucking much.
Also, we already got the Maxwell's 1986 release as a live document of the Tim era. But I'm honestly surprised there hasn't been a Record Store Day remaster/reissue of The Shit Hits the Fans yet.
posted by Mothlight at 11:12 AM on September 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


I don't mean give us an expanded Tim.

I mean go back to the tapes and correct that shitty, tinny mix. Who is to say it was recorded well enough to do much better though.

If that record had been better produced/mixed, their career arc might have been very different.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:46 AM on September 29, 2019 [4 favorites]


Are you saying that shitty, tinny sound wasn’t mandatory in Minneapolis in the 1980s? My friends told me Prince got an exemption from the Governor himself.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:55 AM on September 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


someone playing a guitar in their lap.

Yes, that's a dulcimer -- like Brian Jones played in Lady Jane.
posted by Rash at 1:07 PM on September 29, 2019


I got to see The Replacements in Santa Rosa sometime around 1990. They were one of the drunkest bands I've ever seen perform. When Paul Westerberg said "So here's our hit song, which is rapidly falling down the charts", the sarcasm practically oozed out of every pores. And then they played a really sloppy and perfunctory version of "I'll Be You". You could tell they were really tired of it, but that one at least got everyone dancing in the orchestra pit. I'm kind of amazed any of them are still around.
posted by happyroach at 2:59 PM on September 29, 2019


I saw the Mats at Boston's Orpheus in, um, February 1991 and the concert was a disappointing mess because he was so drunk.

I was 19 then and had heard their stuff so much growing up in the Twin Cities -- and the one and only time I got to see them he was wasted.

I can't wait to listen to these on Monday, though -- thank you for this FPP!
posted by wenestvedt at 5:36 PM on September 29, 2019


I mean go back to the tapes and correct that shitty, tinny mix.

Oh yeah, that would be nice. Great album, but I've never been a fan of the sound per se.

I saw the Mats at Boston's Orpheus in, um, February 1991 and the concert was a disappointing mess because he was so drunk.

Westerberg mounted a really solid solo tour in 1993, drawing pretty heavily on the Replacements song catalog. Josh Freese is a monster on drums.
posted by Mothlight at 8:13 PM on September 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


You know what’s surprisingly hard to find online these days? “Horseshoes and Hand Grenades”, Chris Mars initial post Replacements album. It was pretty damn good if I recall correctly.
posted by TheShadowKnows at 8:17 PM on September 29, 2019


The Replacements’ Don’t Tell a Soul gets the second life it deserves

Shit, DTAS didn't deserve a first life. Say it with me: No Bob, no Replacements.

/purist

Those remixes are an improvement, though.
posted by Rykey at 4:53 AM on September 30, 2019


If I'm being honest, as a single, I do probably prefer the super glossy Chris Lord-Alge version of "I'll Be You," if only because it allows me to fantasize about a better version of the late 80s where The Mats were as big as they deserved to be. I do like the Wallace one better in an album though.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:26 PM on September 30, 2019 [1 favorite]


if only because it allows me to fantasize about a better version of the late 80s where The Mats were as big as they deserved to be.

That's what Goo Goo Dolls albums are for.
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:31 PM on September 30, 2019 [2 favorites]


I wish there was a CD only purchase option with a smaller book. My turntable has died and I really can't justify the price of this package. But damn, those Wallace mixes sound perfect.
posted by Ber at 4:39 PM on October 3, 2019


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