By Richard Wink
December 28, 2012
A ramshackle rock ‘n’ roll band with the world at their feet. A motley crew of self-saboteurs who developed a devoted fan base yet effectively blew every chance to be as great as they could have been. ‘Color Me Obsessed’ leaves no stone unturned in putting the case forward as to why The Replacements should be the most important band in your life.
Funnily enough, I discovered The Replacements by reading Michael Azzerad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life. It seems unlikely that a talented waster called Paul, who was toiling away as a janitor, could stumble upon a trio of teenagers jamming in a garage, introduce himself and then form a band with them. But that is what happened. It’s even stranger that this band were a bunch of barely functioning drunken misfits, whose live shows varied between shaky to downright hopeless. How on earth did they even make it outside of Minneapolis?
What’s remarkable about this music documentary is that it contains, presumably for copyright reasons, none of the band’s music or archive video footage. In some ways, as is the case with most documentaries about storied bands or singers, the music matters not, because it is all about the undying influence and the exaggerated myths and dramatic truths surrounding the act being focussed upon. Besides all that, how can you accurately describe a sound? How can you explain why a band is so important to you? (Eddie Argos has a pretty good try on Art Brut‘s ‘The Replacements’ – Ed). An anecdote about Westerberg, Chris Mars or the Stinson brothers doesn’t really need ‘Bastards of Young’ or ‘Sixteen Blue’ booming in the background.
If you’ve been turned on to Titus Andronicus, The Gaslight Anthem, The Hold Steady or The Decemberists then you’ve probably read interviews from members of those bands citing the influence of Westerberg and co on their music; listening to The Replacements might initially leave the listener underwhelmed, but persevere, watch this film and then revisit the back catalogue because it breathes new life into the music.
Numerous talking heads regale us with stories from the glory years, from soundmen, producers, members of other bands in the Minneapolis scene including the equally legendary Hüsker Dü, along with the band’s hardcore fans. The tales are honest, and because The Replacements fucked up so often they aren’t always painted in the best light.
A rock band requires a certain element of combustion. There needs to be creative friction, tension, the feeling that at any given moment this whole thing could fall apart. The Replacements had that from the get go. As we pay hundreds to watch numerous geriatric rock dinosaurs rattle around on stage to top up their pensions, it would be odd to see the surviving members of The Replacements getting back together to play some of the classics. It is better to remember them back as they were. Pointedly neither Westerberg not Tommy Stinson appeared in this documentary.
Gorman Bechard, who directs the documentary, is able to state the case as to why The Replacements mattered. There is authentically warm nostalgia to proceedings, which means that even when people are discussing the darker aspects of the band, the focus very much is on the good times.