The (A)DAR – Don’t Tell a Soul by The ReplacementsPosted: November 24, 2015
I remember buying my (long-lost) vinyl copy of this album. I was 23 years old, and was only aware of the Replacements in reference to Nirvana. Apparently, the Replacements were Kurt Cobain’s favourite band, Cobain even going so far as to model his vocal stylings after those of Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg. When Nirvana made it big, Cobain invited the Replacments on tour, introducing the long-struggling band to a brand new audience hungry for independent music.
It was with the chorus of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” playing in my head (and in the car, and in the mall, and in pretty much every damned enclosed space you entered at the time) that I saw Don’t Tell a Soul for sale at a local flea market. This was the first Replacements album I had actually laid eyes on. I bought it expecting to hear a litany of screaming, grinding, proto-grunge energy.
What I heard was the album’s first track, “Talent Show.”
To say I was surprised would be understating the shock I felt that such a mainstream (a dirty word in the early ’90s) pop band could influence Cobain’s raw, ragged sound. The first side of the album wasn’t bad, exactly… but it sounded more like something I would expect from Blue Rodeo than from a great influencer of grunge.
Moving on to the second side released a rock-and-roll scream to compete with the best of them: Westerberg’s first note of “Anywhere is Better Than Here.” This could be what I was looking for. But… not really. Other than “Anywhere…” and the piano-pounding party-rock tune “I Won’t,” Don’t Tell a Soul was not the album I had expected.
But it’s the slow burns, those records that compel you to play them over and over again without you really knowing why, that are the most rewarding. It’s not just the music on Don’t Tell a Soul that makes the Replacements one of my favourite bands, it’s Westerberg’s use of language and narrative in his lyrics. Someone could make a movie based solely on the story of the “she” in “Achin’ to Be.” “Inherit the Earth” is an anthem at once cynical and hopeful about the state of the world.
Through collecting the entire Replacements discography, I later discovered that ’80s punk energy that influenced a generation of grunge, but more on that in other reviews. Don’t Tell a Soul is the sixth and second-last album from the Replacements, a product of a songwriter pushing the boundaries of his creative voice working with a mature band at the height of their musical craft.