Dead Man's Pop (Sire / Reprise / Rhino)
Reviewed by Michael Toland, Fri., Dec. 6, 2019
When Don't Tell a Soul arrived in 1989, the Replacements' sixth and penultimate studio LP rated disappointment both critically and commercially. The slick mix by mainstreamer Chris Lord-Alge squashed the Minneapolis punks' controlled chaos into a midrange mush, and both band and producer Matt Wallace repeatedly expressed dismay. This 4-CD/1-LP box set rectifies past mistakes. Featuring a Wallace remix based on tapes of his original work, the album now roars to life. The tweak opens up the arrangements so that acoustic guitars ring crisper, rhythms hit harder, songwriter/bandleader Paul Westerberg's vocals regain their fire, and previously obscured instruments say hello. (There's a banjo in "Talent Show"?) "We'll Inherit the Earth" and "Anywhere's Better Than Here" rage with furious intent, "Darlin' One" displays a groove that reinvents the song, "Back to Back" gains a vitality it previously lacked, and "Achin' to Be" adds muscle to its melancholy need. Dead Man's Pop, the album's original working title, provides one of the few examples where a remix achieves a revelatory experience beyond the bonus demos and outtakes. A legendary liquor-soaked session with Tom Waits, two discs containing a ragged-but-right contemporary concert, and a booklet that takes an in-depth look at the making of DTAS crackle and pop, but in revisiting its creators' original intent, a formerly sneered at LP becomes essential.