The Replacements' enormous influence on bands like Nirvana and the Goo Goo Dolls will always be disproportional to the credit and cash they received. Still, it's never too late for the '80s garage-punk group to reach listeners who spent the decade listening to Spandau Ballet or Slaughter. Perhaps that explains the new Replacements tribute album, as well as Reprise's decision to raid its vaults for two compilations slated for release in October. Of course, it doesn't explain the label's decision not to include material from the band's golden years on Twin/Tone Records.
Fans expecting staples and rarities from the time Bob Stinson was in the band will have to wait and see how the "best of" and "rarities" compilations fare. So far, Warner Bros. has not contacted Twin/Tone about releasing a comprehensive Replacements package that would include earlier 'Mats material, such as songs from their most critically acclaimed album, "Let It Be."
"I'm shocked that no one [from Warner Bros.] has bothered to ask us yet," says Twin/Tone president Paul Stark. "The reviewers are gonna pick up on it right away and they'll crucify [Warner Bros.] for that."
Stark says Twin Tone owns approximately 50 unreleased Replacements outtakes, most of them recorded between the 'Mats' last album on Twin/Tone and their first for Warner Bros. subsidiary Sire. The songs, however, will never see the light of day without frontman Paul Westerberg's say-so. "Half of them are probably awful and half of them I would argue to put out," says Stark.
The unwritten asterisk on the upcoming compilations hasn't escaped Reprise's notice either. "I'm sure that somewhere down the line we'll get together with Twin/Tone and do a retrospective of everything," says Michael Hill, associate director of A&R for Reprise. "We'd like to make a package that historically would give everybody a lot of information about what happened in those years."
Both compilations will most likely be marked "The Sire Years." The "best of" disc will include material from the band's four-album run on Sire Records from 1987 to 1990. The second will satisfy diehards with outtakes from the original "Don't Tell a Soul" sessions that have yet to appear on bootlegs, songs from the promotional EP, "Don't Buy or Sell, It's Crap," and often-bootlegged tunes, like "Jungle Rock" and "Election Day" (a B-side to "Alex Chilton"), recorded on Election Day in 1987.
'Mats mania doesn't end there. A limited-edition Replacements tribute album, "So What," was just released on Wretched Wrecords. The record features covers of 17 predominantly early 'Mats tunes by Austin, Texas acts like Buick MacKane, Hamell on Trial and Asylum Street Spankers.
Perhaps coincidentally, this Replacements revival will peak just prior to Westerberg's first album for Capitol Records. Following a lengthy courtship, Westerberg recently made a verbal commitment to record for Capitol, where he'll work directly with label president Gary Gersh to stimulate his still-fledgling solo career.