The Replacements’ Let It Be is one of the most lovable albums ever to come out of the American garage: a shabbily tuneful bash-and-pop masterpiece about youthful uncertainty, androgyny and getting your tonsils out, complete with a Kiss cover and a Ted Nugent-indebted barnburner called “Gary’s Got a Boner.”
Released in 1984, Let It Be was one of the high points of the get-in-the-van Eighties indie-rock scene, but these well-soused Minnesotans had no use for the principles or oblique artiness of contemporary bands such as Sonic Youth or Husker Du. Instead, frontman Paul Westerberg crammed the equivalent of a half-dozen John Hughes films into thirty-three brilliant minutes, claiming Springsteenian passion and regular-dude earnestness for overgrown kids trapped in the Midwest.
Let It Be brilliantly mixes up recklessness and vulnerability: The opening one-two punch of “I Will Dare” and “Favorite Thing” have just the right amounts of smartass sneering and undeniable melody. But the real surprise is a series of bighearted ballads — the everything-sucks lament “Sixteen Blue,” the gorgeous, trend-monitoring “Androgynous” and “Unsatisfied,” a slice of adolescent agony that stands as the best song Westerberg has ever written. Few albums so brilliantly evoke the travails of growing up, and even fewer have so perfectly captured a young band in all its ragged glory.