Classics Revisited: The Other Let it Be


A long time ago, there was an album called Let it Be by a bunch of blokes called “The Beatles.” By all accounts, it was kind of a bummer of an album, as it was supposed to be the soundtrack to a triumphant movie about the creative process. We all kind of know how that went.

Not great.

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Anyway, fast forward 14 years and we now have the breakthrough album of a young bunch of miscreants from the Twin Cities area which unabashedly and almost brattily uses this “sacred” Beatles title (even though any fan of the group will admit that this is among their weaker offerings). Regardless of the standing of Let it Be within the Beatles’ catalog, any album that cribbed a Beatles title would, to borrow a phrase, “have some serious splaining to do!.”

Luckily, Paul Westerberg, Tommy Stinson, Bob Stinson and Chris Mars delivered with the serious “splaining.” Though the Replacements had been gradually transitioning from a trainwreck to an actual, viable group for several years now, Let it Be truly captured the fundamental dualism in the group’s existence. Paul Westerberg the songwriter (and, by extension, the group as a whole, constantly straddled the line between adolescence and adulthood. The result is as cathartic an expression of musical puberty that has ever been committed to vinyl. “I Will Dare” starts things in adult-mode, with Westerberg asking to “count the rings around my eyes.”

So it goes, with dips and regresses, each forward-thinking song immediately contradicted by a song like “Gary’s Got a Boner.”

Ultimately, Let it Be is a time machine that starts in the gooey and undefined mucky muck of American hardcore and ends the moment Nirvana is satisfied with the music video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

This album, like no other, spells the evolution of underground music in ways that are both reverent of the past and downright clairvoyant.

“Unsatisfied” predicts the “jerkass with a heart of gold” archetype that permeated alternative rock throughout the 90’s. “Androgynous” hinted at gender politics. Not to mention the great KISS cover “Black Diamond,” the anti-MTV tirade “Seen Your Video,” and the heartbreaking “Answering Machine”!


The Replacements of the 1980s were a mish-mash of musical ideas that always threatened to veer into chaos, and Let it Be is perhaps the best document of this group in existence. The group has several other perfectly good records, but Let It Be stands as the ‘Mats’ greatest achievement. In one short album, we find a crystal ball containing our past, present and future. Only, you know, drunker.

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