July 5, 2016

Trouble Boys : The True Story of The Replacements

The title of this 400+ page book doesn't fuck around. That is exactly what you get here. Author Bob Mehr thoroughly captures The Replacements timeline from each member's childhood to the band's bitter demise. If you are are "just the facts ma'am" kind of information seeker, I can't imagine a better read about the band however for anyone looking for a story told through the lense of an outsider with an angle or opinions, you may feel like I did after taking their story in, suffocated by too many details. By the last page I felt sick to my stomach and mostly horrified. I grew up bowing to the alter of this band's music but the force behind their catalog is a freight train of emotional damage that leads to epic reckless behavior magnified by addiction and mental illness. It can all almost be too much. It reads more like the world's longest police report. Trouble Boys is the Lars von Trier approach to storytelling. The camera never leaves anything to the imagination. Just when you don't think the story could get any darker, it does. Oh dear God it does.

I have to wonder, if you knew nothing of The Replacements' music or the key roll they play in the history of great American Rock music, would this book derail you from ever being able to listen to their music and enjoy it? Should you separate the art a group of people make from the very people who created it? It is a tough call when the two are so tangled together. I don't regret reading the book but I will definitely not hear their records the same way again. I don't think I like the people who made these records but at least I have a fuller understanding of how they came to be and why.

The silver lining for me as a music fanatic is this book also highlights the musical influences of the band of which there are MANY. Years ago I helped to create a radio program called Cause & Effect that is still being produced on WRIR but now by other DJs carry on the tradition. Each week a musician or band is selected and they trace their musical roots for two hours. They don't just play songs from their discography but they play the music that helped shaped their style as well as the current bands that exist because of them.

Old habits die hard so when I read a book like Trouble Boys, I still take notes. Thanks to the sites like Spotify I can than instantly build playlists out of those notes from the book. Like a crazy person, I have built 9 playlists that carry nearly 30 hours of music. These playlists are the music companion to the book so as the reader comes across a music related reference, if they had music on Spotify, it was added to the playlist. Much like book itself, if you an absurd amount of detail with nothing spared, these playlists are for you. However for me, this part of the story leaves me feeling an emotional bond to the band that the book helped to erode. As crazy as the members of the band could be, as crazy as their lives would become, each band member was also an obsessive music mans. They liked so many different genres and it is that wide style spectrum that shaped the band's distinct sound and progression from album to album.

These 9 playlists tell the story of The Replacements that I would rather remember them by.


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