Label wants a hit/and we don't give a shit! Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg once sang. Yet the real miracle ofhis legendarily self-destructive band is that it created masterful popin spite of itself. Success wrested heroically from seeminglyinescapable failure: that was the Replacements' magic, as the recentreissue of their first four releases reaffirms. It still seemsimpossible that the most indelible of the four, 1984's Let It Be, camefrom these booze-crazed gutter punks. Along with a few bonus outtakes(including a wrenching alternate version of the sexual-confusionconfession "Sixteen Blue") and covers (a tremblingly majestic take onthe Grass Roots' "Temptation Eyes"), this reissue captures the perfectlyturned punk-pop bravado ("I Will Dare," "We're Comin' Out"), thebleeding-heart letters-in-a-bottle ("Unsatisfied," "Answering Machine")and the proud junk food ("Gary's Got a Boner," Kiss' "Black Diamond").As critic Gina Arnold says in her liner notes, the set summed up theunderdog worldview of fans who saw the band as their personal crackedmirror. The band would subsequently sign to a major and make anothertop-shelf record (1985's Tim), its last with guitarist and wild card BobStinson. But the loser's heroism of Let It Be was — for the group andfor its fans — the end of an era.
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