With the Replacements’ fourth studio album, Tim, the group joined a major record label and moved steadily toward becoming an accessible alternative rock band.
With their previous album, Let it Be, The Replacements broke away from their punk rock beginnings. Recorded on the Minneapolis-based Twin/Tone Records, Let it Be introduced a self-aware songwriting element over the garage punk base.
A year later, in 1985,Tim perfected the alchemical mix and released an album that retained the urgency of their earlier work but appealed to a broader range of emotions among their fans.
With Tim, Sire Records welcomed The Replacements into a family of artists that were familiar names in the underground punk and alternative rock scene at the time. The Talking Heads as well as the Ramones were signed to the label. Sire was also hosting new talent: Madonna, for example, was making her name close to the time Tim when came out.
Sire Records was no stranger to the rapid rise of pop superstars. Despite the fame of other signees, however, Tim reached a modest #183 on the Billboard Top 200 upon its release. The lackluster public reaction did not dampen the band’s underground appeal, which was significant after Let it Be. The album’s longevity and staying power is still recognized.
Rolling Stonelists Tim as #136 on its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The album’s polished production style reflected a new level of seriousness for the band. Credit for the direct, clean-cut sound quality goes to Tommy Erdelyi, or, more popularly, Tommy Ramone. For songs like the easily melodic “Kiss Me on the Bus” and the haunting, anthemic “Left of the Dial,” this pairing between simplicity and urgency leaves the listeners with the impression of a band that is mature, a band that has found their ideal sound and know it.
Compared to earlier efforts, Tim demonstrates a wide range of emotional intensity. Of this scope between quieter songs and heavy rock numbers, singer and rhythm guitarist Paul Westerberg says, “My style is ultimately both kinds of things…Sometimes you just love the little acoustic songs, and other times you want to crank the goddamn amp up, and those two parts of me are forever entwined.”
The “little acoustic songs” of which he speaks almost steal the limelight on this album. On the solemn closing track “Here Come a Regular,” Westerberg creates an atmosphere with his acoustic guitar that makes the lines “All I know is I’m sick of everything that my money can buy / The fool who wastes his life, God rest his guts” sound like a confessional.
That a track like this, a track that can almost make you weep, appears alongside songs like “Dose of Thunder” and “Bastards of Young,” both electric-driven, hard-hammering rock songs, is impressive. It is made all the more impressive by the fact that it works well.
There are a few stylistic oddities here and there, like the rockabilly influenced “Waitress in the Sky,” which showcases Westerberg’s penchant for sharp-tongued humor. “Sanitation expert and a maintenance engineer /Garbage man, a janitor and you my dear /A real union flight attendant, my oh my /You ain’t nothin’ but a waitress in the sky,” he sings.
The album would prove to be the last released by the band’s original lineup, as the troubled lead guitarist, Bob Stinson, was removed from the band.
The Replacements’ follow-up album, Please to Meet Me, was a strong effort but a step away from its well-balanced predecessor. The Replacements move us convincingly and rewardingly through the paces on Tim.
* Anne Kilfoyle, MXDWN