The Twitterverse delivered an unexpected surprise last week with the announcement of three (only three?!?) upcoming shows by The Replacements. After coming together to record a benefit project for ailing guitarist Slim Dunlap last year, it appears that the prodigal sons of no one finally will dare to confront their former selves. Will it be great? Will it suck? Will the tickets cost more than floor seats for the Stones? Whatever happens, it’s safe to assume that these bastards of middle age still have a few surprises up their tattered sleeves.
To be honest, it won’t be true reunion. With one member dead, one recovering, and one abstaining, it’s left to Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson to shoulder the burden. And I think “burden” is the right word here, particularly for Westerberg, who has alternately embraced and rejected his ‘Mats legacy over the years. Unwittingly thrust into the “spokesman of his unsatisfied generation” role, he was never comfortable pursuing traditional rock stardom.
Thus, his solo career has wavered between shoulda-been Top 40 hits (“Love Untold”), unpolished demo dumps (the occasionally brilliant, ultimately frustrating 49:00) and Disney songs (“The Right to Arm Bears,” anyone?). Conversely, Stinson, alternating between solo projects and the traveling circus that is Guns n’ Roses, appears to be thoroughly comfortable in the world of leather pants and limos. Contradictions such as these were at the center of The Replacements’ ethos, for whom conflict was rocket fuel. Whether this yin and yang still burns we’ll know soon enough.