Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements
by Bob Mehr
After the Sex Pistols, the Replacements were the second fake punk band. They did none of their own heavy lifting and did everything that they could to infamously sabotage their own careers. Lumped in with contemporaries like Husker Du and Soul Asylum, the Replacements had little in common with either band besides geography and relationships. This book is a painstaking and thorough examination of all corners of this band's life. Finally, there is a book that—much more than I expected—digs deep into the environmental factors of the members of the band, their upbringings, psychological motivations, maladaptive behaviors, home lives, fears, and aspirations. Picking up where Our Band Could Be Your Life leaves off and going much deeper than Waxed Up Hair and Painted Shoes and All Over But the Shouting, Bob Mehr convinced all surviving members to be involved in the shaping of the book. He interviews reporters and family members, producers, engineers, and ex-wives.
In addition to the fact that Paul Westerberg manipulated his way into the band in the first place, there's no shortage of stories here. Indeed, while the Replacements had very little self-awareness about what drove them throughout the 80s, the adult versions of the members are quite capable and willing to look at how abuse and addiction shaped them, how their behaviors were never quite getting them closer to what they wanted, and, well, the very things that caused the band to break up onstage in 1991 are the very same factors that prevented the success of their reunion in 2013. They still hadn't worked out their childhoods. As an adult with a remarkable similar amalgamate story to the four 'Mats, this book was heavy. It's hard to watch people—let alone a wonderfully great band—self sabotage and attempt to laugh it off night after night. It's hard to listen to these records today and hear all of those interpersonal dynamics and conflicts at play.
In a telling moment, a sympathetic RV rental company allows the band to use one of his vehicles despite the bad reputation of rock bands. The band responds by smashing out every window on the tour, throwing the toilet onto the highway, firing Peter Jesperson, the one person who believed in them and built their careers, and destroyed every bit of furniture inside. Perhaps the band didn't consider that they would finish the tour inside this same vehicle—in midwest winters. It's the perfect metaphor for their entire career—playing a dumb prank that ultimately they are the worst victims of.
This book is the story of four brilliant boys who didn't have the opportunity to figure out who they were before this world imploded and they hacked away at each other until there was nothing left. It's the story of many stories that are, on their face, quite amusing but when you dig deeper, it's mostly a sad tale of kids trying to grow up in the public limelight under the heated criticism of fans and industrial professionals. While R.E.M. was putting on airs as pop stars, the Replacements were doing drugs with them in the green room, setting money on fire and performing country sets to spite ungrateful fans, demonstrating that they were even worse than the reputation that preceeded them.
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