SAVAK released their fourth album in April. Subtly named Rotting Teeth In The Horse’s Mouth, the album is an album for all seasons. It is optimism and realism. It is light and dark. It is dancing and shouting at the sky.
We’re lucky to welcome Michael Jaworski of SAVAK to At The Barrier as he contributes to our ever growing list of artists who write about the music they love. Here, he tells us of the impact The Replacements have had on him and the band.
If there’s one band responsible for my career of making poor-selling records and endless low money tours while building a mountain of debt and questionable life decisions, it’s The Replacements. A humorous and cynical take, yes, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
I grew up a teenager during the 80’s in Omaha, Nebraska – a medium-sized midwestern city about 375 miles from Minneapolis. Discovering The Replacements as a middle teenager opened my eyes to a world I did not know and needed to see.
My friends and I related to these unlikely rock stars. Four smoking and boozing scrappy dudes with flannel shirts and long hair who wrote powerful music and rejected the normative culture of the time. I identified with Paul Westerberg, Bob Stinson, Tommy Stinson and Chris Mars and I definitely wanted to write songs as good as the ones they wrote. My friends and I wanted to be those guys and be that band.
A lot has been said about The Replacements and Paul Westerberg that does not need to be re-hashed. I do think that Westerberg is one of the most important American songwriters of the last 40 years, and I will always believe The Replacements were the underdog greats that never got their due. But for the sake of my personal experience, I’m going to focus on the three most influential records on my life.
The first Replacements album I bought was Let It Be and it spoke to me like nothing I’d heard before. I Will Dare was the song that drew me in. “Meet me anyplace or anywhere or anytime,” with its loose guitar jangle and infectious bass melody. Unsatisfied connected with my 15-year old self and struck an emotional resonance that I’d never felt before from a song. Songs like Gary’s Got A Boner and Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out tickled my teenage funny bone while the tender piano ballad Androgynous made me curious about gender identity for the first time and expanded my world beyond the jock-rule reality that permeated the times. It was a perfect record for a pubescent teenager and it still holds up today as one of the best records every in my opinion.
The following year was their major label debut “Tim” and I eagerly bought the same LP I own today on release day. This was the band’s major label debut and, while relatively unaware of what that meant at the time, I had big expectations for the record. I was initially surprised with how the record sounded. Heavy reverb and a gated snare drum seemed to dominate the sound and it just felt “slick” to me.
That said, the songwriting came through and, in spite of the “made for radio” production, the record holds some of my favourite Replacements’ songs. The band had the incredible ability to write raw and rebellious music with such a heavy emotional weight. Songs like Left of the Dial, Bastards of Young, and Hold My Life delivered a knockout punch with their energy and the ballads Swinging Party and Here Comes a Regular exhibited the humanity, humility and soul of the band. I’ve always wondered what this record would sound like with a proper remix, but we’ll likely never know and I can live with it.
The last The Replacements record I’ll mention is one I’ve probably listened to more than any other; their debut, Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take out the Trash. This record just rips and burns all the way through without a single clunker in the bunch. Sorry Ma is what a great rock n’ roll record should sound like. It is PURE MUSICAL JOY to me. Four people sweating, screaming and cranking out loud punk rock music in the same room is truly what I continue to live for today. The Replacements were making a massive statement with this debut record, and it’s been a canon of rock n’ roll music in my life. I’m going to go listen again right now.
The reality is I probably owe The Replacements more for saving my life. Their music transformed me and showed me an existence beyond the conservative Catholic, sports heavy world I was a part of. They showed me it was ok to step out on your own and disagree with blind authority. Their music gave me more than just a love of rock n’ roll and punk rock music. The Replacements showed me that great music is honest, raw, emotional and from the gut. Truly a wonderful example for any 15-year old boy or 49-year old man.
Many thanks to SAVAK and Michael for sharing his love of The Replacements. The passion oozes out of this article; it’s a joy to read (if we do say so ourselves!)
Check out SAVAK’s video for We’ve Been Disappearing below. You can also connect and support SAVAK below.