Sunday, October 13, 2013

Track of the Week: The Replacements, "Bastards of Young"

This afternoon, as I usually do on a Sunday when I'm driving around the roads of the Garden State, I had WFMU on the radio.  In the midst of a typically stellar line-up of songs by famed DJ Glen Jones, he dropped "Bastards of Young" by the Replacements.  It was a reminder of the magic of radio, where a song can come out of the blue and make your day without you even being able to anticipate it.  I hadn't heard the song in awhile, but it turns out it was just what I needed.

"Bastards of Young" is one of my all-time favorite songs on one of my favorite albums by one of my favorite bands.  It's also one I associate with October, since it was way back in the autumn of my freshman year of college that I picked up a copy of Tim and proceeded to play the hell out of it.  The Minnesota based 'Mats embodied a certain kind of Midwestern drunken fatalism, one I certainly engaged in during my young bohemian years.  That attitude came out in their sound, which is unlike anything else.  They played trashy-punk rock, but threw in Kiss covers like "Black Diamond" to prove they weren't that hip after all.  They always sounded like they were about to fall apart, and on alcohol-soaked piss takes like "Treatment Bound," they did.  And yet they were capable of true greatness, somehow getting it together long enough to craft beautiful ballads like "Within Your Reach" and "Here Comes a Regular."

"Bastards of Young"would have been a big hit in an alternate, cooler universe.  It is a kind of Generation X call to arms, a commentary on young people left unclaimed by their elders.  The riff is a real blockbuster, the chorus a singalong worthy of U2's 1980s heyday.  It's an underground, snotty punk rock version of "Born in the USA," filtred through Gen X cynicism rather than Boomer anomie, and I still love it after all these years.  Hearing it come out of my car radio made me think for a moment that a cooler, alternate universe is still possible, which was maybe the most fervent hope of my own bastardized youth.

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