the beatles - let it be (album cover)If you’re most people, you’re thinking this must be the wrong Let It Be. But no, this is an alternative rock classic from the 1980s. In fact, this is the first of very few entries from the 1980s on my list; if you’re like me, you try to forget the ’80s ever happened. The decade was an embarrassment as far as American culture goes, and artistically, the ’80s weren’t much better, save for the alternative music movement that blossomed under the surface in rock & roll‘s final years. (Grunge and alternative rock effectively replaced rock & roll in mainstream music by the early ’90s.) One of the decade’s most unappreciated bands is the Replacements, who could keep things simple and fun. I ended up waiting a long time to get into the Replacements.

the replacements - tim (album cover)I had been aware of them for many years, thanks to my cousin Matt, but for some reason I just never got around to listening to them. I had this nagging hole in my music catalog — I knew this was a pretty important band, with their works often cited on “best of” lists — but I kept putting it off and putting it off. Finally, I downloaded Let It Be and Tim, their 1985 major label follow-up. I haven’t gotten into Tim that much, which may change with time, but I immediately loved Let It Be. Their mastery of melody and mood is surprising given their punk palette, but so be it. It’s worth it to hear beauties like “Androgynous” and “Unsatisfied.” The more I think about this album, the harder it is to defend. I don’t think there is any real logic to its greatness, though it’s certainly great.

It’s curious to find a Kiss cover (“Black Diamond”) and some obvious throwaways (“Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out,” “Gary’s Got a Boner”), yet for some reason, it’s nice to have all three in the mix. It keeps the pace of the album brisk and light, and at barely half an hour, Let It Be is one short album. “Seen Your Video” is unexpectedly entirely instrumental, until the final thirty seconds, when it’s not. Somehow the Replacements manage to keep you off balance throughout Let It Be, resulting in an album that rewards repeat listens. By the time you get used to all its nuances and intricacies, you’ll realize it’s quite an album.