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33.3 Ways The Replacements (feat. Colin Meloy) Kicked My Ass

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The Placemats — at one time, South Carolina’s finest Replacements tribute band. Photograph by Jonathan Sharpe

by Logan K. Young

Alas, after twenty-something years, The Replacements have reunited — Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson, anyways. So, yeah, long live The Replacements.

I, myself, was barely six months old when Twin/Tone put out The Mats’ Let It Be. The day, they say, was Orwellian: Tuesday, October 2, 1984.

Naturally, I recall nothing of it.

Growing up, simple arithmetic holds I was 20 when Colin Meloy’s book about Let It Be was released by Continuum. Whereas I now know every groove in that record by heart (and pretty much all of Meloy’s words about it), alas, I only remember parts of the night I was, err, “gifted” my first 33 ⅓ book.

Sorry, ma, allow me to explain.

It was Saturday night. November 27, 2004. My elder brother, Kenley, and my then roommate, Tug, had just played our inaugural gig as The Placemats — Columbia, South Carolina’s best-via-only Replacements cover band.

Seeing as how The Mats had played so many covers themselves (not to mention Kenley and I being a legit pair of bros), we deemed our fledgling tribute at least half-way justified.

And just as The Replacements were known — heralded even — for some truly wretched performances, by all accounts, The Placemats’ first show was a wreck of near Edmund Fitzgerald proportions. In that respect, then, I’m glad the following is a little fuzzy.

OK, here’s what I remember semi-distinctly: Loading up after our abysmal debut (at Art Bar in the Vista, an old Xeroxed 8.5 confirmed), a sinewy, scenester type accosts me for flubbing a precious few notes of a too precious Westerberg and Stinson song.

I forget now what tune it even was, much less the actual infraction; given that, collectively, the band had imbibed a Stinson’s worth of hooch, there’s no way anyone on stage could’ve. Really.

Not yet old enough to drink responsibly, forget legally, I take a swing at said chump — just like any one of the original Minneapolis Four would have done. (Save for maybe Chris Mars, on drums.)

I don’t remember hitting the pavement. Then again, you never do. Amirite?

Thanks to my besotted, belligerent stupor, I had been laid the fuck out by a true Mats fan.

What’s worse? Tug claims I only took one, singular punch.

All shook down, when I finally came to, I was flat on my back with a copy of Colin Meloy’s three-month-old book caddy-cornered on my chest.

Oh, and my face burned something fierce.

Again, according to Tug, after my fall, this “chump” had reached into his jacket pocket and gingerly placed Meloy’s words on my lifeless body—a ceremonial, but edifyingly polite spitting-as-you-please on the co-ed asshole he had just vanquished.

As for why neither Tug nor my brother came to my aid, well, to this day, they both maintain I had it coming. As callow and every bit obnoxious as the younger Stinson once was, I’m quite sure I did. Indeed.

And yet, getting my ass handed back to me was only lesson number one.

Nursing both a high-rise hangover and some low-hanging pride, I spent the following Sunday afternoon, pen in hand, marking up each of Colin Meloy’s 118 pages. (Years later, I’d do the same for more than 600.) Apt enough for a bildungsroman, I had a term paper on A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man due early that week. But I didn’t care.

Much like the shiner ‘round my left eye, Meloy on The Mats felt much more pressing.

You see, Colin Meloy writing about being a Replacements fan in the middle of nowhere was basically my own story. The guy had stolen my line. And unlike Michael Azerrad’s earlier tome, his simple book essentially was my life.

Aside from not picking fights with those that are smarter (forget more sober) than you, the real lesson I learned at the end of that weekend was simply to be more informed, yourself. Overall.

Having read and re-read more than a third of the 33 ⅓ books, themselves, when it comes to knowing more about the things that matter most to me now records, of course there’s been no greater teacher.

Be it musicians like Meloy writing idiomatically (Joe Pernice’s elegiac Meat Is Murder, Franklin Bruno’s alphabetized Armed Forces, Drew Daniels’ encyclopedic 20 Jazz Funk Greats, John Darnielle’s imaginative Master of Reality) or wizened critics writing afresh (Douglas Wolk’s one-night-only Live at the Apollo, Geoffrey Himes’ introspective Born in the U.S.A., Eric Weisbard’s comparative Use Your Illusions I & II, Dan Kois’ all-access Facing Future) or even new voices speaking freely (Michaelangelo Matos’ four-piece Sign “☮” the Times, Hugo Wilcken’s meticulous Low, Geeta Dayal’s deconstructed Another Green World, Daphne Carr’s crowd-sourced Pretty Hate Machine), I’d like to think I’ve been a model student…though I did end up with a B- on that James Joyce paper.

I’ll turn 30 years a bastard Young on Saturday, March 29, 2014. Much to my mother’s delight (we share the same birthday), I’m but a scant two months away from true adulthood.

So, when I get that inevitable birthday check from my old man, I’ll stroll down to Community Bookstore in Park Slope, Brooklyn to purchase Fear of Music by the irascible Jonathan Lethem. (As per the ire of Jonathan Franzen, though, I will not request a Kindle edition.)

I will, however, purchase two separate copies: one for me, and another for the stranger who socked it to me so long ago. Should we ever meet again on the sunnier streets of Columbia, it’ll be an apt token for that tough right hook.

After all, his was a kind of kindness I’ve depended on 67 times over.


About the Author:

Editor-in-chief at Classicalite.com, Logan K. Young is the author of Mauricio Kagel: A Semic Life. His rock criticism, though, has appeared everywhere — from New York Magazine, the Baltimore Sun and NPR to Crawdaddy!, The Big Takeover and the Trouser Press Record Guide. (In fact, his 3:AM essay “No New York: A Jade Anniversary” will be included in the upcoming anthology That Devil Music: Best Rock Writing of 2014 from Excitable Press.) A summer student of the late Karlheinz Stockhausen, apropos, he’s since studied with Thurston Moore at Naropa’s Jack Kerouac School. Young’s favorite song from Let It Be is “Androgynous.”

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