To the uninitiated, The Replacements’ 2012 reunion and subsequent announcement last week of their first UK show in 24 years might seem like yet another band of old, white men with little to no relevance to music in 2015 getting back together to pay the bills. But that couldn’t be more wrong. The Replacements’ influence couldn’t be stronger than it is right now and, without them, music in 2015 could be sounding very different.
The band was formed in Minneapolis in 1978 by guitarist Bob Stinson and his then eleven-year-old brother Tommy, who played bass. Along with drummer Chris Mars and singer/guitarist Paul Westerberg, the band released seven striking albums between 1981 and 1990 but never received the mainstream adulation they deserved. Instead, they gained a reputation for destruction, banned from clubs across America for trashing stages and often called “the greatest band that never was” for the sheer amount of opportunities they wasted. They were allegedly banned forever from Saturday Night Live after performing drunk in front of the studio audience (watch one of the tracks below).
You can see and hear strands of The Mats’ (as their fans call them, short for ‘placemats’) legacy in a ton of the bands filling NME’s pages and playing up and down the UK today. Chicago’s The Orwells are just one such band who’ve inherited aspects of the group. Like The Replacements, there’s an unpredictability to the band, especially frontman Mario Cuomo. They’ve yet to garner the same reputation for being wasters as their heroes but there’s the same sloppy, on-the-brink-of-collapse feeling to many of their performances, as there is in live footage and stories from The Replacements’ peak.
The Mats also, say The Orwells, opened up doors for bands who weren’t necessarily made up of the best looking people or focused on extravagant imagery. “It was during hair metal so there were all these costumes and big ass sets and then you had new bands like The Replacements who were just ugly people,” guitarist Matt O’Keefe told NME in April 2014. “These good-looking guys could be in a band and some ugly guy could write better songs than them but nobody wanted to listen to that dude.”
‘Androgynous’, from the Mats’ seminal 1984 ‘Let It Be’ album, tackles issues surrounding perceived gender roles in lines like “Kewpie dolls and urine stalls/Will be laughed at/The way you’re laughed at now” and “Unisex, evolution/Tomorrow who’s gonna fuss”. On their new single ‘I’m A Girl’, Birmingham band Peace continue in that song’s lineage, questioning “Do you feel like a man/Cos you got blood on your hand?” Frontman Harry Koisser has acknowledged The Replacements’ influence on second album ‘Happy People’, and ‘I’m A Girl’’s politics are the most obvious link between the two bands.
It’s not just new bands that wear their Replacements love on their sleeves. Wakefield trio The Cribs have been covering the cult classic ‘Bastards Of Young’ since 2007 (watch below) and, in 2012, Ryan Jarman told Coup De Main magazine “The Replacements definitely changed my life. The thing that blew me away [with a band like that] is that you’ll get into a band from hearing one interesting song and then realize you’ve got seven or eight albums to listen to afterwards and every single one of them is a great record.”
Similarly, The Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon has claimed that his band wouldn’t exist without The Replacements, and Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong has called them his favourite band ever.
The Replacements back catalogue doesn’t just feature bratty punk, though, and it’s partially that which means their influence stretches outside of indie rock, too. In 2009, electro-funk producer Kindness (aka Adam Bainbridge) covered the band’s 1985 track ‘Swingin’ Party’. “It’s much more ballad-y than what they’re known for. I think that’s what attracted me to it,” Bainbridge explained to Self-Titled shortly after his version was released.
New Zealand pop star Lorde also covered the song in 2013, applauding their music’s inspirational quality in an interview with Spotify, saying: “Right now I’m listening to this band called The Replacements – they’re from the ‘80s or something – and half the songs make me think, “God, I should cover this!”
For Wolf Alice drummer Joel Amey, that progression from punk to more considered songs is one of the band’s many great aspects. “I love how they’re nothing like the punk band they’re supposed to be,” he says. “I hope the way they progressed from their early era of being a teenage punk band into the sort of songs they ended up doing has an influence on us and other bands, where it’s OK to progress out of your scene.”
When they come to London’s Roundhouse on June 2 and 3, it’s likely they won’t be up to the wasted, destructive antics of their youth. But the show still promises to be one of the most exciting this year, offering a new generation the chance to see their favourite band’s favourite band. As Joel says, they might have had a reputation built on fucking up but there’s no one who can quite live up to the Minneapolis group. “They just did it and burnt out in the way they did but left a legacy that no one will match up to,” he explains. “In my opinion, they’re one of the most important American bands of all time.”