Please To Meet Me – The Replacements (1987)

Pleased to Meet Me album cover
Pleased to Meet Me album cover

The Minneapolis-St. Paul area is often associated with Prince, The Time and any number of Prince proteges, but the city has an important rock legacy also. Bands like Soul Asylum, Husker Du and The Replacements, all come from the area. Its often said that the Replacements helped build the foundation of modern rock as we know it today.

Formed in 1979, the quartet led by Paul Westerberg was known as a brash rowdy bar band. The Rolling Stones and Alex Chilton were two of the band’s biggest influences with some of the Clash thrown for good measure. In fact Paul, Westerberg (along with members of R.E.M. a few years earlier) were like a one two punch that got people interested in the music of  Alex Chilton and his legendary band Big Star.

They where regional favorites until a string of critically acclaimed albums that peaked with Hootonanny (1983) and Let It Be (1984) brought them national attention. By the release of Tim in 1985, the band had become a national college radio favorite with after bar anthem “Swinging Party” and “Left of the Dial”. They even played Saturday Night Live, where their disastrous performance got them banned from the show due to the rowdy behavior.

While the critics and cool kids on campus loved them, the K-Mart crowd was not buying it. Whatever commercial benefit that came with critical acclaim was being circumvented by the bands old pub band habits. Commercial pressures from the band’s record company Sire, saw them straighten up long enough to record a new album.

Even the cover for Please To Meet Me suggested that the band was either selling out or graduating to maturity as they made a deal with their more refined future selves. Either way, the expectation was that some commercial success might come from working with the man responsible for one of their idols sound. Jim Dickinson had worked with Alex Chilton who would make an appearance on an homage that bears his name.

Recording in Memphis may have had its effect on Pleased to Meet Me, because the sound was in many ways a tribute to the band’s major influences (Big Star). Aside from the many Rolling Stones-like songs, the album featured jazz influences with a strings and upright bass. There was the cocktail jazz of “Nightclub Jitters” and the Memphis Horns on the near hit “Can’t Hardly Wait” . The Memphis influence may or may not have been intentional, but it helped bring the sound of Please To Meet Me the closest the band had ever been to the Rolling Stones.

In all Pleased to Meet Me was a great album that manage to botch up any chance of breaking  into the big-time ( R.E.M. did just that that same year). The odd choice of a first single “The Ledge” was about committing suicide and was banned from MTV. Instead of becoming the cool thing to hear due to being banned, it got no promotion and was forgotten.

That was too bad, because Pleased to Meet Me was perhaps the last scrappy recording from the band that managed to balance its old punk heritage within the catchy confines of pop music.

 

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