The Replacements Don't You Know Who I Think I Was?: The Best Of

It’s been long overdue that the ’Mats received the recognition they deserve as one of the most important bands of the past 25 years. This 20-track compilation — the first to span their entire career — is a significant step toward that, providing more than enough evidence to justify Paul Westerberg’s god-like status among songwriters. While the band became instant legends for their booze-fuelled performances, their greatest achievement lies in being one of the first authentic North American punk bands. It was all based around a wry combination of cynicism and humour that first appeared in Westerberg’s early slacker anthems "Shiftless When Idle” and "Kids Don’t Follow.” But behind those defences was a fragile heart, and by 1984’s Let It Be, Westerberg was brilliantly wearing it on his sleeve in "I Will Dare” and "Unsatisfied.” Of course, this aspect was always kept in check by the gonzo lead guitar of the late Bob Stinson, and his contributions are thankfully acknowledged here, even though the selections lean heavily toward the ’Mats’ sensitive side. Still, there’s no arguing with any of the choices, and even the two new tracks featuring the three remaining founding members, Westerberg, drummer Chris Mars, and bassist Tommy Stinson (now in Guns ’N Roses) contain much of the fire that was present at the start. Every home should have a copy. (Rhino)