Monday, October 20, 2008

Rewriting History

The new Rolling Stone arrived today, and it's notable on a few levels, including a redesign (the oversize format is gone, replaced by something that looks much more like Esquire) and Barack Obama's face on the front (this is getting to be like Oprah magazine, with the same cover model issue after issue). But on my initial flip-through, the thing that grabbed my attention most forcefully was the four-star review of the reissue of the Replacements' 1985 album Tim. Now, I understand that four stars is a good review (or "excellent" on the magazine's stars-to-words conversion chart). I also understand the reluctance to score a new album higher right out of the gate; great albums earn their fifth star over time. But twenty-three years later, does anyone not think Tim is an essential, classic album? Sure, "Dose of Thunder" is a casually rendered flake of Westerberg's dandruff, but it stands alongside "Kiss Me on the Bus," "Bastards of Young," "Left of the Dial," "Swingin Party" and "Here Comes a Regular" (among others), on one of the most swaggering, mesmerizing, mind-blowing records of the post-punk era.

If the star system is consistent, then the magazine declares that Tim is of roughly the same quality as new releases by Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Eagles of Death Metal, Kaiser Chiefs, Raphael Saadiq and Juana Molina. Those may all be terrific albums (I've heard the Adams record, and it's sensational), but if, in 2031, there's a consensus that any of them are in the same league as Tim, be sure to check back here for the live video stream of me eating my own head.


Trip McClatchy said...

Not only that, the original 1985 Rolling Stone review gave Tim 4.5 stars. It got worse in the intervening 23 years?

Anonymous said...

They just didn't like the new packaging is all.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree. I've always thought Tim was a good solid record, but not a classic. Then again, that's always been my take on the Replacements - even after seeing a classic show at the Blue Note in Columbia Mo in 91. Sorry for the heresy.

It is interesting that the RS rating of the record has dipped over time. It would be interesting to see who wrote the original review.

Andy Whitman said...

Without delving into the Replacements controversy (I love some of the albums, like some of the albums, and even think a couple are mediocre messes), I do think it's possible for reviewers to revise their initial impressions.

It works both ways. When Radiohead's "Kid A" was released, I was initially put off. I thought it was a misstep, a new but not necessarily better direction after the brilliance of "OK Computer." Now I think it's a 5-star album. Similarly, I wrote a 5-star review in Paste of Over the Rhine's album "Ohio." That's not a 5-star album. It's good, but not that good, and if I could do it over I'd knock off a star.

My point is that it's not that surprising that a re-released album might receive a different rating than the original review. Reviewers change, and the way we hear albums changes as well.

Kevin McClatchy said...

Andy Whitman hits it on the nose.
What is classic and/or great is often fluid. Even within a week, let alone 23 years.
I ejected The Fine Art of Self-Destruction by Jesse Malin no less than eight times, then filed it for a few months then had the gnawing sense that Trip couldn't be THAT wrong about somebody, could he?
Then I listened to the whole thing, initially as a battle of wills. And for some reason it clicked.
A review on the first eight listens would have been a bridge-burner.
Today, a love letter.

Anonymous said...

'tim' is a classic and 'pleased to meet me' is too . . . really so many pretenders following in their shoes . . . they actually were YOUNG angry sensitive and articulate (not just clever) . . . AND a real band . . . i'd like to thank trip for taking me to see the replacements back in the day . . . they were very very great on strictly their own terms . . . what an inspiration . . . and ps. i'd like to personally award rolling stone 4 LESS stars years later . . . it looks like a rolling stone can indeed gather moss . . . but it smells like something entirely different

Michael Atchison said...

I agree with Andy and Kevin that some albums shrink over time (Tracy Chapman's debut was a classic the first time I heard it; twenty years later, it's a very good singer-songwriter affair). My point, perhaps not stated clearly enough, was that Tim hasn't. It's greater today than it was in 1985.