Sound — 6
Ever since the beginning, The Replacements have always had a great sound about them. The mixing and production has always been good. Even the rockier tracks of the early albums sounded good. But, on their fifth album, they dropped the ball. While the songs and music are typical of the band's style, the sound is distinctly off when compared to the rest of their output. With the exception of two songs, there is a very noticeable popping sound that can be heard any time the snare drum is hit with enough force. Compare the opening of "I.O.U." to that of "Hold My Life" from "Tim," and you'll notice a big difference. Throughout most of the tracks, the guitars are distorted and covered in dirt, which is typical of their earlier works but here doesn't seem to fit as well. A horn section was brought in for the jazzy "Nightclub Jitters," and sounds very good on that song, but the horns also appear on a few other songs where they do not belong. The sound is not horrible, but it's the worst-sounding in the whole Replacements catalog. Perhaps it was an attempt to return to their roots, or a new style being adapted after the removal of guitarist Bob Stinson from the band the previous year. Whatever the cause, the sound is far inferior to that of their other albums. It sounds tinny and strangled, as if they're playing on practice instruments. My only guess is that there was something wrong with the reverb on the recording, particularly of the drums. The sound of the album would earn a 3/10.
On the other hand, while the sound is buzzy and feels incomplete, the music being played is as superb as ever, and for that I have to raise my rating. "Alex Chilton" has one of the coolest riffs in rock music, and the opening arpeggios to "The Ledge" are almost reminiscent of "Unsatisfied", which is unarguably the best song ever written. "Valentine" and "Never Mind" have great, fun music, and the problems with the sound don't seem to be as obvious here. "Skyway" is another beautiful acoustic number in the style of "Here Comes a Regular," and "Nightclub Jitters" is a moody, atmospheric piece from the bottom of Westerberg's heart that sounds similar to "Willpower." There are three rockers that sound like holdovers from the "Tim" sessions in "I.O.U.," "Red Red Wine," and "Shootin' Dirty Pool," which all feature the sound issues prominently (although "I.O.U." is among their very best). "I Don't Know" and "Can't Hardly Wait" are both brought down by the unfitting horn section, although the latter is one of their best-known songs. One thing constant throughout all of the songs is the excellent delivery of Paul Westerberg's vocals, which sound as good here as they ever did. All in all, the music would earn an 8/10 if the sound problems are to be ignored.
Lyrics — 9
Paul Westerberg is one of my favorite lyricists. He combines the wordplay of Elvis Costello with the in-your-face writing of Joe Strummer and the emotional impact of Roger Waters. Like with the previous two albums, there is a balance between the heart-on-the-sleeve ballads and the fun, drunken rockers of the band's infancy. Songs like "I Don't Know" and "Shooting Dirty Pool" are reminiscent of "Sorry Ma Forgot to Take Out The Trash" and "Hootenanny," while "Skyway" and "Nightclub Jitters" sound as though they've jumped straight out of the "Tim" record. Most of the lyrics tell of the typical Replacements characters we've met over the past few albums. "Alex Chilton" is a tribute to the Big Star guitarist, who also played on "Can't Hardly Wait." "Never Mind" seems to be a song about the transition that's been taking place since "Let It Be." On the one hand, there's the drunken slobs who were lucky to make it through a show with all four members still standing (let alone remembering how to play the music), and on the others, there's the sobered-up, professional musicians they would eventually become. But most shocking is "The Ledge," a dark song about a character at the end of his rope preparing to end his life. It's one of the more emotionally impactful rockers, alongside "Little Mascara" and "Left of the Dial." Like with "Tim," they were required to make music videos to promote the album; the video for "The Ledge" appropriately features Westerberg picking his ear with his middle finger and eating potato chips. They hadn't lost their sense of humor.
Overall Impression — 7
When compared to the rest of the band's output, "Pleased to Meet Me" is somewhat disappointing. While all of the tracks are good (with the possible exception of "I Don't Know," which I usually end up skipping) they aren't all great, as "Let It Be" and "Tim" were. "Alex Chilton," "Valentine," "I.O.U.," and "Never Mind" are the real standout tracks in my opinion; "Nightclub Jitters" is unique and worth a listen, but I probably wouldn't include it on a best-of collection, and "Skyway" is great but is similar enough to the superior "Here Comes a Regular." Most of the other songs are good I only find myself listening to them when I listen to the album. While "Can't Hardly Wait" is a fan favorite, I never really got the appeal in it. It's a good song but I feel it's overrated within the band's recordings (which may seem like a stupid thing to say). When all is said and done, though, it's still a pretty good album that you shouldn't overlook if you're a Replacements fan.