The Replacements – Pleased To Meet Me
Released June 17th, 1987 on Sire Records
By 1987 Minnesota college-rock heroes The Replacements – The ‘Mats to their friends and fans – were in a fatal crisis spot. Despite their penchant for being loud and ragged, and for having chaotic live shows that were more filled with fragmented, fractured cover songs than they were original material, major labels could smell the blood in the water that was the up-and-coming alternative rock scene. Let It Be had hooked them; the band’s first major label effort, Tim, remains a classic Eighties Alt album and a highwater mark of the band’s powers. In the aftermath of Tim, however, the group came apart at the seams. An addict even in a band full of addicts, founding guitarist Bob Stinson was fired by frontman Paul Westerberg for not being enthused with the divergent direction the band was going in, or for being too drunk and fumble-fingered to actually keep up, depending on who you ask. Band manager Peter Jesperson – the man who had heard something special in the band’s original 4-track demo and signed them to his label, Twin/Tone – was fired shortly after. Pleased To Meet Me, then, is The Replacements as a trio, driven mainly by Westerberg’s need to reinvent what he and his band meant in the grand scheme of things.
As such, Pleased To Meet Me is a remarkably uneven album. To be sure, there are the usual ‘Mats rockers – “I.O.U.” comes out of the gate charging hard, and “Shooting Dirty Pool” is as representative a Replacements song as you might ever find – but there is a lot more on here that wouldn’t have fit even in a chaotic setting like their two pre-major albums, Hootenany and Let It Be. Sure, “Androgynous” was a ballad, but “Skyway” was a goddamn ballad, acoustic guitar, digital production, and the rest. “Nightclub Jitters”, a weird night-life jazz number, is easily the oddest thing the band ever recorded. “The Ledge” seems to take it’s cues from the PacNorWest SST scene, like a scuffed-out early Mudhoney track. The best parts of the album, though, the ones that will (as a certain old-school ‘Mats fan might say) get scratched into your soul, are the two songs that channel the Seventies pop-rock ghost of Big Star: “Alex Chilton” (naturally) and the wide-open closer “Can’t Hardly Wait”, whose wryly regretful melodies inspired a weirdly good Nineties teen comedy.
Pleased To Meet Me would be the last creative gasp of an already strained band. There were two more albums – the overly-slick Don’t Tell A Soul and the hospice-hushed All Shook Down – but for all intents and purposes this was the last release of the band as the legendary force for Minnesota rock ‘n’ roll that they were.