All For Nothing, Nothing For All
The liner notes sum it up best. This isn’t a greatest hits compilation because, well… there weren’t really any hits. Rather it’s a collection of would-have-been, could-have-been, should-have-been hits — which is a better epitaph than any for the seminal band that the critics adored and the public ignored.
All the songs you would think should be here are there — “Alex Chilton,” “Bastards of Young,” “Achin’ to Be”… but the strict four-song-per-album format leaves out gems like “Waitress in the Sky” in favor of some of the weaker tracks from the end of the band’s career. Glaringly absent are cuts from the Twin/Tone years. I guess the boys from legal couldn’t work out a deal. Still… a Replacements compilation without the Twin/Tone years? Nothing from Let it Be? Kinda makes ya go hmmmmmm…
Disk two is a grab bag of b-sides, outtakes and other assorted goodies. As a b-side compilation, it’s incomplete because missing are “If Only You Were Lonely” and “Nowhere is My Home.” Once again… Twin/Tone recordings. Those bastards in legal!
There are some real gems though, so tracking through disc two is about as close to listening to a new Replacements album as you’re ever going to get (unless you count Wilco’s a.m.). “Wakeup” could’ve been lifted from Hootenany. The live cover of “Another Girl/Another Planet” has always been a favorite, and the sloppy rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” captures the drunken charisma of a Replacements live show (even though it was recorded in the studio). Also notable is Tommy Stinson’s “Satellite,” which comes as close to that coveted Big Star sound as anything else they’d ever done.
Most of the other tracks are your typical sappy Westerberg ballads, though even these have their air of mystery because for so long, they were “unreleased” — wooooo! Something special there! My favorites? Glad you asked — “Election Day” and “Birthday Gal.”
Also a major in the bonus department — the compilation comes with four music videos accessible on your computer. The classic anti-video “Bastards of Young” is there. It starts with a tight shot of a stereo speaker and slowly pulls back to reveal the back of some guy’s head as he smokes a cigarette and watches the speaker. Then there’s “The Ledge,” which I’d never seen. It’s just about as weird as anything the Talking Heads put out around the same time frame. Nothing but tight shots of shoulders, noses, and cigarettes. Sheer poetry, I tell you!
After watching those videos the videos for “Merry Go Round” and “Achin’ to Be” seem unbearably conventional, and the lyrics to “Seen Your Video” (another Twin/Tone song) come screaming back to mind.
The Replacements always rocked more than they rolled, and for a brief but shiny moment (from 1984 to 1987), they were the greatest rock and roll band to ever walk the face of the Earth. All For Nothing, Nothing For All is a treat for longtime Mats fans, with only minor disappointments. For the rest of you who want to be turned on, go buy Let it Be.