The Replacements’ Best Album Gets a Badly-Needed Remix, and More

Replacements – Tim (Let it Bleed Edition) (Sire/Rhino)

New remix is how this album should’ve sounded when it came out

I’m a huge Replacements’ fan and I hated Tim when it came out.

I had purchased their previous album, Let it Be, in 1984, after hearing “I Will Dare” on the Duke college station, WXDU.  I remember the DJ mentioning that R.E.M.’s Peter Buck had played on the track and that was enough for me.  Soon, I became enthralled with that entire album.  Punk nonsense like “Gary’s Got a Boner” rubbed shoulders with the gut-wrenching “Unsatisfied.”  There was the vicious “We’re Coming Out,” and the drunken piano “Androgynous,” and even their roughshod cover of Kiss’ “Black Diamond.”  It was raw, and somehow both flippant and sincere.  

And then, the ‘Mats (as they’re affectionately known) signed with a major label, Sire Records. The ensuing album, Tim, lacked the aggression that I had come to love from the band.  I remember first noticing how the drums sounded like cardboard, and the guitars were tinny.  Everything was awash in this reverb, like an old Elvis record, but muted.  My worst fears had been realized – The Replacements had signed to a major label and had indeed sold out.  Produced by Tommy Erdelyi, aka Tommy Ramone – I question what this guy was thinking back then.

There were good songs – I remember liking “Left of the Dial” – an ode to college radio, the rocker “Bastards of Young,” and the catchy “Kiss Me on the Bus” – but I couldn’t get past the lousy sound.  Only the bleak, “Here Comes a Regular,” seemed to rise above the sonic flaws.

Tim is the only Replacements album I don’t own on LP.  I did finally grab it on CD, but, it actually sounded worse than I remembered (there’s a reason – see below).  

Well, apparently I wasn’t the only one unsatisfied with the sound of Tim.  Rhino Records has just issued Tim (Let it Bleed Edition), a 4-CD, 1-LP box set, the highlight being a fresh remix from Ed Stasium, who had worked on albums from the Ramones and Smithereens.  

It’s about damn time.

These fantastic songs are finally put in the correct light.

The first thing you notice is that the godawful echo is gone.  Also, the original mix is mostly mono (why?).  Here, Stasium chose to spread out the guitars, so everything packs a big punch, and the drums are meatier.  Take the catchy “Kiss Me on the Bus” – the original mix is flat, listless, mostly mono.  This new version is superior in every way.  There’s an audible acoustic guitar in one channel, while an electric guitar chugs in the other.  And, the bass – completely buried before, is fat and driving.  The guitars on the original “Bastards of Young” sound like needles.  Here, Stasium gives them balls.  

I saw the ‘Mats twice, so I always knew what they were capable of – but their studio output just doesn’t show it.  This new mix really does sound more dangerous, unbridled.  

For some of the other songs, it’s like a film has been peeled off, revealing the actual music.  “Waitress in the Sky” is one example – the new mix exposes guitars and really good harmonies that you barely make out in the original.  The anthemic “Let of the Dial” just jumps out of the speakers in the new iteration.

“Swingin Party” is the band’s most-streamed song (in large part due to a 2013 Lorde cover).  The original has a strange percussion sound which has been corrected.  In the new mix, the instruments are spread out, giving the track more life.  “Little Mascara” has an additional minute added to the new version, which features an out-of-his-mind guitar solo from Bob Stinson.

Perhaps the most revealing improvement is “Here Comes a Regular.” Stasium decided to mix out the dated synth, instead finding a forgotten piano part, which adds an additional level of sadness.  The synth finally emerges in the middle, building more tension.  Westerberg’s voice is more upfront – you really feel the melancholy in his delivery.

Every CD version of Tim, and thus, streaming as well, was pulled from an inferior tape which made everything sound even more brittle.  Disc 2 of this box set is an attempt to correct this.  They’ve taken the original album mix and tried to make it sound as good as possible.  Most notably, it seems they’ve tried to boost the bass, but I still prefer the remix!  

Disc 3 features outtakes and alternate versions, including several cut with the legendary Alex Chilton producing.  Strangely, the band attempted “Can’t Hardly Wait” numerous times – fast, slow, even one with cello, and Westerberg wasn’t happy with any of them. It would eventually come out on their next record, Pleased to Meet Me.

Disc 4 features a previously-unreleased concert from Chicago from early 1986.  Sloppy as usual, but good fun.  The first track sounds muffled, but eventually they get the sound right.  Bob Stinson really does shine here – you really do get to appreciate his unbridled approach to guitar.  Some of the covers, including “Hitchin a Ride” are kinda goofy, although “Black Diamond” is really good.  Actually, as the set goes on, you can tell that the band is just ad libbing everything and running on pure adrenaline.  Westerberg asks for requests as the band will literally play anything.  Their early anthem, “Kids Don’t Follow” is followed by the Beatles’ “Nowhere Man.”  The covers are there, but they actually play them all the way through for a change.  The guys sound completely out of their minds by the last track, “Go.”  28 tracks – it’s a dizzying testament to how great this band (sometimes) was live.

The box comes with a big booklet with a lengthy essay by “Mats historian Bob Mehr.  You really do get a blow-by-blow account of the band, and their penchant for fucking up, time after time.  Truth is, Tim’s bad mix had nothing to do with them – it just wasn’t representative of what these songs should’ve sounded like.  This new mix is the real deal.

Tim finally sounds like the greatest Replacements record it always should’ve been.  —Tony Peters