The ReplacementsAll Shook Down
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Good things don't last forever, but neither do the bad things. Everything changes. For some, this cliche on the human condition makes life bearable. Others, like Paul Westerberg, deal with the uncertainty of living and write better songs because of it. Westerberg, leader of the Replacements, once again masters the pain on All Shook Down.
The Replacements began as a nasty four-piece, executing thrash/punk albums like Stink and Sorry Ma, I Forgot to Take Out the Trash. Harnessing the band's energy, Westerberg honed his song-writing skills culminating with the 1987 release Pleased to Meet Me, a combination of straight forward rock 'n' roll, pop catchiness and punk anger.
The comparatively somber follow-up, Don't Tell A Soul, was a disappointment to many fans, though it garnered the most national attention of the band's career.
The rumored-to-be last release from the Minneapolis band, All Shook Down, is aptly titled. Emotionally, Westerberg's songs are more world weary than angry. Literally, the band seems to be worn down by years, the road and lack of wide-spread recognition. All four band members play together on only one song. This is Westerberg's solo album.
Westerberg attempts nothing new or spectacular on All Shook Down. Merry Go Round and Attitude are slowed-down retreads of Alex Chilton from Pleased and One Wink at a Time is much like Back to Back on Don't Tell. Unlike past fast and furious Mats LPs, however, most of the songs are musically subdued.
Westerberg sings the title song barely a whisper above the acoustic guitar and flute. On several songs, it sounds as if he is singing with a sock over the microphone. The muffled production has a pleasant womb-like effect, conducive for listening to in your car in the rain.
Critics can quote lyrics 'til the cows come home and speculate on the artists' personal demons, but the real beauty in Westerberg's words are how easily they adapt to most anyone's life. "The plan was to knock/the world on its ear/and I'm willing to bet/you don't last a year" from Happy Town applies to anyone who has ever felt doubt.
Never one to focus forever on his own laments, Westerberg's penchant for identifying with the woes of women is aptly extended in Nobody, One Wink at a Time, Sadly Beautiful and The Last. One unnecessary addition to the album is the contrived duet between Westerberg and Concrete Blonde's Johnette Napolitano on My Little Problem. There isn't a bad thing one can say about Napolitano's deep and lovely voice, except that it has no business on this song.
Despite the worn-to-the-nerve feeling of All Shook Down, it is not lacking in legendary Replacements irreverence. Attitude, the only song that features all members, is pure brash Mats humor from the flubbed count-in to the fall-apart ending. All Shook Down does not contain the same fiery Replacements that constant listeners of Stink fell in love with, but the knife-in-the-gut feeling is still there. Everything changes, even the Replacements.