Sound — 10
The story of The Replacements is among rock and roll's great legends. Originally formed as a punk rock band in the late 70s, the band slowly made a transition toward alternative rock. The band became too big for indie label Twin/Tone following this record, and they eventually were signed to major label Sire. The band continually sabotaged their chances for mainstream success, however, whether it be performing drunk at shows where key record industry players were in the audience, throwing out the f-bomb on Saturday Night Live or making music videos that consisted only of a 3 and a half minute shot of an amp or a shoe. The end result was a band that achieved artistic success without ever achieving commercial success. Had the band started in the 1990s, things might have been different. Let It Be finds the band in a state of transition. While they had already began moving away from their punk roots on the grab bag of styles present on Hootenanny, it was here they began forging a definitive style the band had flirted with in tracks like "Color Me Impressed" and "Within Your Reach." The band still show traces of their punk roots here, with typically chaotic solos from Bob Stinson and a few silly tracks thrown in amongst the more mature numbers.
Lyrics — 10
The album starts with "I Will Dare," a plaintive love song set to a vaguely C/W backdrop. Some of singer/guitarist Paul Westerberg's best-ever word play features in the song. R.E.M.'s Peter Buck contributes a rockabilly solo in the middle. "Favorite Thing" continues in a similar vein. The section where everything but the bass drops out and Paul sings "You're my favorite thing, but I'm nothing!" is this track's best moment. "We're Comin' Out" returns to the band's punk roots. In fact, it's arguably the closest to hardcore punk the band ever got, though the lyrical matter is yet another plea for a girl to give our protagonist "one more chance to get it half right." The song features one of Bob's sloppiest ever solos (almost Greg Ginn-styled), though it's fun. Toward the end of the song, the rest of the band unexpectedly drops out as the song turns into a lounge piano number before slowly fading back in for the chaotic ending. "Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out" is one of the two silly tracks here. If nothing else, they show that the band has a sense of humor. The song itself is a basic punker about bassist Tommy Stinson (brother of Bob Stinson) getting his tonsils out. "Androgynous" is Paul's first solo showcase on Let It Be. On this track, he contributes some rudimentary piano as a backdrop for his song about two transexuals falling in love. Despite the bizarre subject matter, the song manages to sound convincingly sincere. "Black Diamond" is a surprisingly tight cover of a KISS song, a very uncool move in 1984. The band manage to significantly improve on the original, which came off as a bit underdeveloped. Here, it's a kickass rocker that fits in perfectly. Bob flashes another great solo toward the end. "Unsatisfied" is one of the most famous tracks in The Replacements' canon. A largely acoustic number, the song's message is a heartfelt plea (presumably to a lover) delivered by Paul's powerful raspy voice. Eventually his simple question is answered by the line "Everything you dream of is right in front of you/And everything is a lie." Bob contributes some beautiful slide guitar and gentle strumming here. The song approaches a level of complexity The Replacements' music rarely reach despite the simple lyrics. "Gary's Got a Boner" rips off Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever" to such lengths they even co-credited him for the song. It's obviously the second silly number here, but unlike "Tommy Got His Tonsils Out," it just comes off as stupid. It's the only true blight on an otherwise great album. "Sixteen Blue" tells the story of the lonely teenager who can't get a girlfriend and can't seem to get anywhere (something mostly everyone can relate to at one point or another). Though the song itself is yet another instant classic, the best moment is Bob's powerful melodic, almost lyrical solo at the tail end. The song's only shortcoming is that it fades out while the solo's still going. The true highlight of this album was wisely put at the end of the album. "Answering Machine" was recorded mostly solo by Paul (with backing vocals and maracas done by drummer Chris Mars). Paul's guitar sounds unbelievably spacey due to the unusual open A tuning. The song itself is arguably the greatest break-up song of all time, with Paul struggling with wanting to call his ex but knowing she won't pick up. The song is matched up with a truly unforgettable melody. The operator recording spliced in is also a nice touch. It wasn't until this track came on that Let It Be became something more than just an album for me. It changed my life.
Overall Impression — 10
The band would abandon their punk roots completely for their next album Tim, which was pure college rock. Here, the band are still experimenting with new styles, but they seem surer of themselves than on Hootenanny. The end result finds an album that's capable of making you cry on one track and laugh your ass off on the next.