THROWBACK SONG: The Replacements – Answering Machine
I used to work doing landscape work in the late 80’s. It was nice being outdoors all day, but the work was fairly monotonous. To make things a little less tedious I kept a yellow Sony Walkmen strapped to my hip at all times blasting music into my pollen-ridden head. I usually listened to mix tapes, but I would do full albums if I deemed them worthy. The Replacements – ‘Let It Be’ was one such record that I could stand to listen to all the way through. Although the record was out for several years before I cribbed it from my brother’s vinyl collection and put it on a tape.
The whole album is stellar but I was most drawn to the song ‘Answering Machine’. It is a beautiful wall of noise that builds to a slow crescendo on the slouched shoulders of longing and desperation. Awkwardly placed into the mix is a warbling recording of an telephone operator that randomly repeats throughout the latter half of the track. The end result is a pretty song that has intentionally been made to sound ugly, but in the end emerges as the Queen of the Ball.
This song is a testament to the genius of Paul Westerberg. Most artists would kill to have a song this good to begin with, but to then take it and intentionally destroy it, well that is something else altogether. There are few artists that can afford the luxury of killing (or at least trying to kill) their best work. In the end the song is not ruined at all but transforms into the most beautifully fucked up song you have ever heard. How do you say goodnight to an answering machine?