Tribute albums can be tricky things. Many times we’re looking for some authentic homage to our esteemed musical heroes; other times we’re begging for the artists paying their respects to just do something different (dammit!) with those familiar chords and lyrics, so we can hopefully find new hidden meanings in songs we’ve long taken for granted.
It is with this in mind, the question “how would one of the seminal garage bands of the 1980s sound if reproduced mainly on ukuleles?” becomes worth exploring. Bright Little Field, comprised of Nashville music veterans Tom Littlefield (folk-rock) and Jonathan Bright (rock-rock), are certainly talented enough to take on the assignment, though it’s pretty likely the names Westerberg/Stinson/Mars were more the draw to the non-Tennessean readers out there.
Treatment Bound actually first came out in late 2010 (now re-released on Bar None), and draws fairly strongly from what many would consider the ‘Mats high points of Let It Be and Tim. While no tribute can ever satisfy the true fan, Bright Little Field do hit upon a pretty good representation of the band over the course of just 12 songs – some of the bigger hits, some must-haves and a few of the closet favorites.
There’s a strong take of “Androgynous” included, and serious fans may likewise cheer the inclusion of “If Only You Were Lonely,” a b-side from Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash that later became popular on compilations. But of course, you do also get some of what you’d expect: “Kiss Me on the Bus,” “Can’t Hardly Wait,” “I’ll Be You,” “We’re Coming Out” and “Achin’ to Be.”
What seems to work best on this album are the quieter songs, where Bright and Littlefield are able to use the space and pace to create better moods and arrangements for Paul Westerberg’s ultimately forlorn lyrics of loneliness and alienation. But a few too many ballads do kill the buzz, so hearing them drive a bit harder during the quasi-country slosh of “We’re Coming Out” does the ears good, as does the additional rhythm on “Bus” and even the title track. Overall, Littlefield and Bright’s ukes are certainly up to the task melodically, and Littlefield’s vocal style, though much more controlled than Westerberg’s, carries the songs well enough.
For many, having a four-by-four downbeat and frazzled guitar parts replaced by mellifluous plungs and ke-long ke-longs will allow deeper understanding into the poignancy under all the fuzz and rough edges. But if you’re looking to rock out, or even goof out, look elsewhere – there’s neither irony nor much adrenalin hidden in these tracks.
Maybe the truth is the ‘Mats were less of the frenetic, beery misfits we weren’t even sure could actually make it through a whole show standing upright, and really more old-fashioned sentimentalists at heart – with a lot more of the usual country cocktail of heartache, loss and sadness thrown in there than we realized. So in that sense, maybe a couple of guys from Nashville are just what the doctor ordered to help us rediscover, appreciate and be able to see the Replacements in a bit of a new light. Pleased to meet me, indeed.
Track Listing (original Replacements album song appeared on):
1. We’re Coming Out (Let It Be)
2. Androgynous (Let It Be)
3. I Will Dare (Let It Be)
4. If Only You Were Lonely (Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash)
5. I’ll Be You (Don’t Tell a Soul)
6. Treatment Bound (Hootenanny)
7. Little Mascara (Tim)
8. Swingin’ Party (Tim)
9. Kiss Me on the Bus (Tim)
10. Skyway (Pleased to Meet Me)
11. Achin’ to Be (Don’t Tell a Soul)
12. Can’t Hardly Wait (Pleased to Meet Me)
Other Reference Material:
Prior/Other Replacements Tributes: http://www.paulwesterberg.com/disc.htm
Color Me Impressed: Unofficial Replacements Database: http://www.colormeimpressed.com/