After a clutch of scruffy punkish releases, Let It Be was where The Replacements started to indicate that they were slowly starting to mature, starting to blend more considered material like “Unsatisfied” with the likes of “Gary’s Got a Boner”. Where once there was sloppiness and youthful exuberance, here there is self reflection and youthful exuberance. The difference is subtle, yet would be increasingly important in terms of the development of the band.
Perhaps shamefully I was largely unaware of The Replacements until I discovered The Hold Steady, who seemingly name drop them as often as they do Bruce Springsteen. After procuring a career-spanning compilation, my interest in the band was passing at best, but as Let It Be was generally held to be their definitive release, I was happy to part with my hard-earned when I came across this suitably lo-fi un-remastered CD in Record Collector. Let It Be is not an album that needs to be heard in the latest super-clear audio definition. It’s a gloriously shambolic attempt at a semi-mature statement, the sort you are supposed to at least attempt in your late teens / early twenties and as such the more primitive the CD pressing the better for me.
Let It Be found the band at an important transitional stage in their career. The moment where they realised that sometimes it paid to have discernible lyrics and that turning down the guitars from time to time wasn’t a bad move. Granted, they hadn’t lost much of their impish humour, but that said, any band that can cover KISS’s “Black Diamond” in such a manner that it reportedly causes Gene Simmons to storm out of one of their gigs, must be doing something right.
There is something oddly youthful about Let It Be and the fact that I was rapidly approaching my mid-30s when I first heard it perhaps means that a little of its impact will be lost on me. Whereas for a generation of delinquent teens that grew up in the mid 80s, Let It Be would be one of the defining albums of their youth, I am listening to it with the nostalgic ears of someone who hadn’t even lived through a decade when this album was released, yet is now listening to it at a time when so many of my peers are settling down, getting married and raising families. Let It Be does not define a time of my life, an era or a sub-genre of music. What it is to me is a curiously enjoyable listening experience and an album I’ll happily crank up the volume on when I’m feeling suitably carefree.