Raised In The City: Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash Turns 40

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The Replacements – Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash

Released August 25th, 1981 on Twin/Tone Records

Produced by Paul Westerberg, Peter Jesperson, and Steven Fjelstad

Once upon a time in the suburban days of the mid-1990s my best friend got into Columbia House (or maybe BMG, I don’t really remember). One day he ordered an album that he had misread as being a double CD by the Refreshments, who had two claims to fame: “Banditos” and the theme song to King Of The Hill. What came instead was a two-disc collection from The Replacements. Because it didn’t have that distorted heft that many of the bands we were into at the time had (Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Metallica), he tossed it aside. I scooped it off of him, curious about this band I’d never heard of that had enough material for two CDs. I was also put off by the rough, raw quality of the recordings and put it aside until some time deep into my first year at university.

Now, of course, I know the story. The ‘Mats were originally called Dogbreath back in the septic days of 1978, a collection of Twin City teenagers and the 11 (by some accounts 12) year old younger brother of Bob Stinson, Tommy Stinson. At first they jammed on instrumental covers of songs that were popular at the time. They searched for a singer but could never find one that fit the bill. One day Paul Westerberg was coming home from his job as a janitor in a U.S. Senator’s office and heard them playing, and after that would often stop in after work to listen in on the jamming. Eventually he developed a desire to sing for the group; at one point he took aside the guy they had tapped to sing and made up a story about the band not liking him. With that guy out the way, Westerberg slipped in as the band’s frontman. That was the moment they started going somewhere. Prior to Westerberg taking the mic, the band’s rehearsals were more like drinking sessions; after, they became rehearsals.

Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash was the group’s first full-length LP, recorded after the band became a hot item in Minneapolis-St. Paul’s legendary hardcore scene, a scene that also included Husker Du and which would be chronicled at length by the Hold Steady. Despite being on Twin/Tone and having a friendly rivalry with Husker Du (whom they would pay tribute to on “Somethin to Du”), the band never felt that they properly fit in with the other hardcore bands. That strange tension is present all throughout their debut album. The songs are rougher and harder-edged than subsequent ‘Mats recordings, but they’re immediately recognizable as having been written mainly by Paul Westerberg: rocking but catchy, possessed of a self-deprecating humor and an eye for the sorrows and joys of being part of a scuzzy working class subgenre. Unlike the early work of Husker Du, Sorry Ma is eminently listenable; it is also more modern than early Clash and more varied and subtle than Social Distortion. All of the qualities that would inform their peak on Let It Be and Tim are present, just in their first, unfinished forms: Chris Mars and Tommy Stinson’s solid rhythm section, Bob Stinson’s ear for the rough edge that gave their songs their gravitas, Paul Westerberg’s down-and-out, heart-on-sleeve songwriting and vocal howl. They would release an EP, Stink, that gave the hardcore thing the ol’ college try, and then would begin building their legacy as one of alternative rock’s foundational bands.

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