The Replacements

Don't You Know Who I Think I Was?: The Best of the Replacements

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Great as the Replacements were, it's a little difficult to recommend one of their great albums as an introduction to the band. Sure, it's easy to see Let It Be as a masterwork of the '80s underground, capturing the group's ragged humor and heart, but it doesn't quite illustrate the depth of Paul Westerberg's songwriting the way Tim did, even if that record wasn't as ferocious as Let It Be, nor did it have the slick diversity of Pleased to Meet Me -- and none of the three had the raw, raucous kick of the 'Mats' first three albums (they also didn't have the desperate-for-a-hit vibe of Don't Tell a Soul or the sadly beautiful hangover of All Shook Down, but that's another matter entirely). It could be argued that any of those three would be effective intros, but the Replacements truly needed a compilation. Of course, they already got one in 1997, when Reprise issued All for Nothing/Nothing for All, containing one disc of hits and one of rarities, but due to legalities, it had nothing from the band's Twin/Tone work, which meant it had nothing at all from anything before Tim -- a severe handicap for a career overview to overcome. Released nearly a decade later, Don't You Know Who I Think I Was?: The Best of the Replacements trumps its predecessor for the mere fact that it does contain cuts from Twin/Tone -- eight of them, in fact, sampling from Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash, Stink, and Hootenanny in addition to three selections from Let It Be. While it's possible to quibble about the actual selections -- any teenager or college kid of the '80s will likely have a friend that put "Androgynous" on a mixtape, not "Answering Machine" -- these records are well-represented, as are Tim with four songs and Pleased to Meet Me with three cuts, balanced by the two singles from Don't Tell a Soul ("Achin' to Be," "I'll Be You") and a song from All Shook Down, an underrated record that nevertheless feels like the first Westerberg solo album it should have been, so it's rightly downplayed. These 18 songs make for an excellent introduction to one of the major American bands of the '80s, and that alone would have been a nice addition to the Replacements' catalog (not to mention a good appetizer for the forthcoming box set allegedly in the works). But what makes Don't You Know Who I Think I Was? noteworthy for fans is the presence of two new tracks by a reunited Replacements. While this isn't exactly the full-fledged reunion that many fans have longed for -- Chris Mars sat this one out on drums, but he does provide harmonies -- "Message to the Boys" and "Pool & Dive" are perfectly credible, enjoyable throwaways, sounding a bit like if the 'Mats were Westerberg's backing band for 14 Songs. They're not great, but they're loose, silly, and a whole lot more fun than anything Westerberg has been up to since 14 Songs, and a nice coda to an already strong compilation.

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