Book Review: Phases & Stages

Bob Mehr

Phases & Stages

Bob Mehr funneled a decade's worth of research into Trouble Boys, interviewing the Replacements themselves and their families as well. That first-handedness distinguishes his in-depth read from the 2007 oral history by Jim Walsh, The Replacements: All Over but the Shouting. The Memphis Commercial Appeal critic commences on square one, detailing members' ill-starred childhoods – mainly brothers Tommy (bassist) and Bob Stinson (late guitarist). Early dysfunction thus backlights the dark roots of the Minneapolis foursome's hardwired hijinks. Rascals to the core, punk rock proved their mutinous musical crux.

"The soul of rock & roll is mistakes," opines frontman Paul Westerberg.

Alcoholism heeds leitmotif. Indulgence and mischief therefore materialize as cries for attention from boyhoods lost. 'Mats tunes and 'tude invariably coexist, so Mehr's sub rosa squints into the music making enthrall. The former Village Voice columnist details each of the band's seven LPs, from the early-Eighties gutter punk of debut Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash to what their singer termed the "bubblegum garage music" of All Shook Down a decade later. Songs' inspirations and studio squabbles enlighten, as does their composer's insight. Westerberg deems Let It Be jewel "Unsatisfied" as "overrated, half-assed, half-baked."

Twin Cities' punk rock pecking order pits the band in a mercurial rivalry with Hüsker Dü, but though the former's bandleader longed to be "as big as R.E.M.," that desire to bud commercially became stunted through self-sabotage come crunch time.

"The fact that we came up short is the thing that's kept us interesting," reckons Westerberg today.

Grave revelations, coupled with side-splitting stories of booze-fueled bedlam, net Mehr's biography as definitive. Ace reporting and the author's shrewd parlance boost this tragicomedy page-turner past paean to allusive eulogy of rock & roll's foremost troublemakers.

Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements

by Bob Mehr
Perseus Books Group, 474 pp., $27.50

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Replacements
Books, Box Sets & Reviews
The Replacements
Dead Man's Pop (Record Review)

Michael Toland, Dec. 6, 2019

Rock & Roll Books
The Replacements: Waxed Up Hair & Painted Shoes
Picture Book

Michael Bertin, Dec. 6, 2013

More Music Reviews
<i>Me & Mr. Cigar</i>
Me & Mr. Cigar
Butthole Surfers singer Gibby Haynes debuts a deeply weird and wonderful young adult novel.

Alyssa Quiles, Feb. 21, 2020

Revenge of the She-Punks
Revenge of the She-Punks

Rachel Rascoe, Dec. 6, 2019

More by Neph Basedow
Top 10 National Albums of 2016
Top 10 National Albums of 2016
Our favorite picks from across the country

Dec. 30, 2016

Critics Poll
Critics Poll

Dec. 30, 2016


Replacements, Paul Westerberg, Tommy Stinson, R.E.M., Hüsker Dü

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle