This is the one of the songs that link the raw garage days of the Replacements to Paul Westerberg's more ambitiously crafted and finely produced, post-Replacements solo career. Featuring a quiet and simple circular guitar riff, the instrumentation is made up mostly of horns and strings, and Memphis legend Jim Dickinson's reigned-in production is crisp and clean. Clearly the group was aiming for the sort of bright, early-'70s AM-radio sounds of songs like B.J. Thomas' "Hooked on a Feeling." It was as if Westerberg realized that his gifts as a songwriter were enough to let his melodies and lyrics shine through without the din of distortion and edgy performances for which his band had been known. During his tenure with the band, Westerberg guided them from pure garage rock raucousness to nuanced, soulful songwriting and a more focused production standard. And he probably looked at his record collection, as many artists do, and realized that he did not listen exclusively to punk rock and heavy-guitar music; that, in fact, his tastes probably ran toward the well-crafted and high-production-values side of Big Star, the Beatles, and the Stones. In the process, however, many such artists forget the fact that many of the same elements of their own music, which they may feel they are outgrowing, are often times precisely the aspects that make them unique as artists. One can not blame Westerberg for feeling like he had achieved all he could with the Replacements' formula; he obviously wanted to move on and challenge his fans to grow along (in the same direction) as him -- to accept his art on new terms. The question is, however: Did the songwriter leave behind that which made him great as a performer? Undoubtedly, "Can't Hardly Wait" sports some of the bearings of a great Replacements song: a catchy guitar line, a memorable melody, and a unique turn of phrase or two. But one can't help but think the song as performed in its incarnation 1987's Pleased to Meet Me sounds simply too controlled. If the band had played the same song on or before Let it Be (1984), it might have teetered on the verge of collapse -- as the bandmembers themselves often did. But it was precisely this style of pop music, played with a dangerous edge and reckless joy, that was one of the main attractions of the band, and by extension, Westerberg as a songwriter. In fact, the song was originally recorded prior to Bob Stinson's departure, during the sessions for Tim (1985) -- which was tellingly included in lieu of the Pleased to Meet Me version on the collection All for Nothing/Nothing for All (1997) -- and it rocks like the band used to, with '70s punk rock-influenced guitars like the Ramones, the Clash, Blondie, and the dual attack on the Rolling Stones' 1978 Some Girls. Westerberg's vocal delivery of a rough draft of the lyrics is appropriately passionate: sneering, raspy, and breathless, as if he was propelled by the band. During the Tim-era, the Replacements walked a perilously fine line between their rowdy days of old and the crafted, polished direction of the future; it was a perfect balance. The production, by ex-Ramone Tommy Erdelyi, is timeless-sounding, unlike Dickinson's (ironically) decidedly '80s sounds. Without blaming the band for having to move on -- lacking the raw soul of the dysfunctional, kicked-out Bob Stinson and also as a result of the band's choosing to clean up their act a little -- "Can't Hardly Wait" is merely a good, not great song, executed soundly, albeit lifelessly. As such, it does not have much to distinguish itself from a whole pack of other post-Big Star, pop revival songs -- being the sort of cute pop song that earned it a spot on the soundtrack for the teenie movie that took its name from the song, Can't Hardly Wait (1998). And this merely good version of the Replacements is what disappointed their fans; they were spoiled by all the absolutely great pop/rock songs the band had tossed off over the years. They may have always been lovable losers, but they were never "cute."