Sunday, December 03, 2006

"I'll Be You" / The Replacements

"If it's a temporary lull / Why'm I bored right out of my skull ..." Good question. I remember being disaffected and nineteen and whipping around Indianapolis looking for action; it's one thing to be stuck in the suburbs where nothing seems to be going on; but when nothing is going on in a hundred-fifty-mile radius, then you're in trouble.



The Replacements, for all their spiky urban punkiness, are from Minneapolis, and I've gotta think their songwriter Paul Westerberg had itchy evenings just like I did. His description of that mindset totally hits home -- "left a rebel without a clue / And I'm searching for something to do."

The thing is, I still feel like this some days. That edginess, that longing to break out -- some of us never grow out of it. Otherwise why would this song speak to me the way it does? I've only discovered the Replacements fairly recently (ironic, considering that they broke up 15 years ago, despite a recent sorta reunion), but there's something urgent and immediate about their best songs that makes me feel like I've known them all my life.

That bashing drumbeat, the snaggy buzz of the guitar, the jerky, slightly strangled vocals -- it sounds late-night, it sounds like static on the radio as you drive aimlessly, cutting rudely in and out of traffic, restlessly scanning the chain-store strips for anything new. You're no longer a kid, and your peers are already settling down, but somehow you just can't yet --"Hurry up, we're running in our last race...." And Westerberg's lyrics are so smart -- "I'm dressing sharp and feeling dull"; "We're bleeding but we're not cut" -- that you realize this guy isn't just another stoner slacker. Being in his world is still more interesting than the alternative.

It's cool to think of a couple who're so much on the same wavelength that they blend into each other -- "You be me for a while / and I'll be you" -- and they even hold hands at one point. But this is hardly a love song; I think of the two characters in this song as kindred souls more than lovers, washed up on each other's shore for want of anything better. This isn't your typical romantic song; and yet Westerberg's persona is damn romantic, a lost soul seeking dreams and freedom.

This song gets my pulse going in more ways than one. I can't say it makes me feel happy -- but it sure as hell makes me feel alive.

1 comment:

ARegular said...

Cool summary and review of that PW thing.

Also liked the reference to IndiaNOPLACE. I spent a few evenings there looking for something to du rather than nap.