The Replacements: Tim (1985)

I vacillate on whether Let It Be or Tim is the best Replacements album; I'm going to have to call it a tie.  1984's Let It Be was my introduction to the band upon my arrival at college, a definitive statement that latter-day punk rock could be loud and fast and snotty and sophomoric but also brutally honest, intelligent, and meaningful, joining R.E.M.'s Murmur in permanently changing my musical life.  But it was the follow-up, 1985's Tim, that really saw Paul Westerberg emerge as perhaps the greatest songwriter of my generation.  Where was my Dylan, my Ray Davies, my Pete Townshend?  Oh, right, this guy...

While the lyrical maturity Westerberg showed on Let It Be is further cemented here, there was still plenty of fucking around, still a far cry from the mid-tempo balladry that would slip into later albums.

The album kicks off with "Hold My Life," a straight-forward rocker that establishes that the band had retained every bit of the energy from their earlier work.  The highlight, of course, is "Bastards of Young" the ultimate Gen X anthem that to this day is among the decade's finest moments.

   God, what a mess, on the ladder of success
   Where you take one step and miss the whole first rung
   Dreams unfulfilled, graduate unskilled
   It beats pickin' cotton and waitin' to be forgotten.

Nearly as great are the poignant "Little Mascara" and the ode to college radio obscurity, "Left Of The Dial."  And while most of the rest similarly rocks hard, Westerberg, as on Let It Be, tries his hand at a few mellow takes, like the sombre "Swingin' Party" and the snarky "Waitress in the Sky" (sharing snide remarks his flight attendant sister had endured), as well as some flat-out pop on "Kiss Me On The Bus."

I saw them touring behind the album at City Gardens in Trenton, NJ, where we watched the band get completely sloshed at a table in the back during the opening set, then proceed to play a messy show full of half-assed 70s covers and flubbed solos and it was awesome.  (Though it was pretty great to later see them play a straight, sober show around '91.)  They officially released a recording of a show from later on the Tim tour a couple years back, and I can confidently say it's one of the five best live albums ever.

Here's "Bastards of Young" on Saturday Night Live:
...and "Left of the Dial" live, decades later:

The remastered album with bonus tracks is out of print, but worth hunting down; there's also a nifty box set that collects all their studio albums (but without the bonus tracks).