Saturday, October 29, 2011

Left of the Dial

By the time I heard the Replacements, they were pretty much over. The freewheeling band of miscreants and rock and roll clowns were now a semi-professional outfit that was flirting with—never to achieve—commercial success. “I’ll Be You” was a minor radio hit, and I was intrigued enough after shelling out 2 bucks for a cassette of Don’t Tell A Soul to seek out their other records.

And oh, the treasures contained therein. The “facts” I gleaned about the band (do you remember life before the internet? Me? I'm starting to forget) only served to fuel the mythos: Bassist Tommy Stinson was twelve when the band started. His brother, Bob, the guitarist, often played onstage wearing tutus. They were crazy Midwesterners who drank a lot, and broke stuff. And did things that musical acts trying to make it as a moneymaking concern were not generally advised to do. Live and in toto, they were generally a drunken mess, occasionally capable of the sublime. But the music speaks well enough for themselves: Paul Westerberg sang about alienation, boredom and working class anonymity better than anyone before or since, and songs like “I Will Dare,” “Unsatisfied,” “Here Comes a Regular,” and “Can’t Hardly Wait” combined Raymond Carver’s eye for heartbreaking detail and Johnny Rotten’s vitriolic snarl.  

So how do you make a documentary about one of the most revered, self-destructive and influential band to come out of the American rock music underground…without including any of their music by the band, or any interviews with the members? Well, there are the anecdotes, and they inspired a lot of them. Everyone who heard them, saw them, and loved them had a story, and I'm guessing that's enough to make this a worthwhile documentary. A story for fans, and about fans, and fandom, as much as it is about the band. Color Me Obsessed is showing all over the country next week, and in Los Angeles at the Downtown Independent on November 4.