Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out the Trash (1981)
Back to Back: 18 tracks / 36:47
Bullpen: Chris Mars, Bob Stinson, Tommy Stinson, Paul Westerberg. The classic lineup. The ’91 Chicago Bulls of music. Sort of?
He’s Gone Mental: “Rattlesnake” is the fastest. “I Bought a Headache” is (appropriately) the most annoying. But “Customer” is downright schizophrenic. A then-20-year-old Westerberg can’t decide how he should act when talking to a female convenience store clerk. He starts off by shouting for random merchandise (Wondermints! Sunglasses!) before awkwardly asking for change, then quietly professing his love. The rest of the band stays revved, but underneath the noise, their frontman is sweet. And sad. And snotty. In other words, they were The ‘Mats.
Expected Johnny Thunders tribute: “Johnny’s Gonna Die”, written after Westerberg attended a show only to watch his drunk and high idol insult the audience and pass out. PW’s prophecy proved right a decade later. What’s sad is that the song could have been about founding guitarist Bob Stinson. And, in a way, it was. Stinson died in 1994.
Unexpected Fleetwood Mac tribute: “Johnny’s Gonna Die”. Just listen to Tommy’s bass line, pulled almost directly from “Dreams”. John McVie would be proud. Eh, probably not.
Best Studio Banter: “Banter” is almost a euphemism. This category should be called “Most Memorable Moment Where Paul Westerberg Acts Like A Dick To The Recording Staff”. Here, it’s on “I Hate Music”, where he responds to Engineer Steve Fjelstad’s warning of “Tape’s rolling” with a disaffected “So what.”
I Hate Music: Some of Sorry Ma‘s… weaker tracks are saved by humorous studio glitches and titles (particularly “Something To DÃ¼”), but “More Cigarettes” is a bit of a dud, simply because we can never remember what it sounds like.
Best Outtake: “If Only You Were Lonely”, which appeared as the B-side to the “I’m in Trouble” single, then resurfaced on the deluxe edition of Sorry Ma… nearly 17 years later. As close as a country ballad as The Replacements came to in those days, the pining romanticism is offset by Westerberg’s literal potty humor. Best line? “Tonight I’ll be doing pull-ups on the toilet bowl.”
Beer Me: This was the band at their sloppiest and most unrefined. Let’s go with Coors. Better yet, the Minneapolis version of Coors. Actually, what is the Minneapolis version of Coors? Grain Belt? Yeah, Grain Belt. [Ed. Note: Confirmed. It’s Grain Belt.]
Analysis: The sameness of some of the tracks and strength of The Mats’ later albums admittedly makes Sorry Ma… feel a little long these days, but it’s still somewhat of an anomaly, and we mean that in the best way possible: it’s by far their funniest album while also containing one of their saddest songs. And hearing Westerberg fight against his undeniable hook-writing skills gets more fascinating every year.