Oh no, straighten up, here comes Mom. She's got a belt and looks real mad. That's how The Replacements must have felt when they went in to the studio for Don't Tell A Soul. But at that point, it was too late. It's always too late once Mom had the belt, no amount of shaping up will save you, that ass whipping was coming.
For the most part, the conformity of Don't Tell A Soul felt forced, they were getting along just to get along. Suddenly, here they were doubting their past, doing all the right things now, but yet not so sure about it all, and definitely not so sold on the future. There were no more doors to the gutter for the band, that act had grown tired. Put up or shut up time, grow up.
But they had to ask, is this what making it big is really all about? And what came out of it was a glossy production aimed at making radio friendly hits and selling records. Not exactly what The Replacements were all about.
Despite that, I really enjoy this album. Paul's self-deprecation and keen self-awareness whispered truths in my ear, and I fell hard. Perhaps he fussed over it all a bit too much, smoothing off the corners of his heart, but it was my first album by the band, and it will always be special to me because it opened up a door to the band. After having been drowned in hair metal by MTV in the late 80's, their brand of rock and roll was refreshing to my 19 year old ears. It was relatable, real, it was how I felt. Back then, I didn't know about a back catalog, or the history of the band, I just knew I loved I'll Be You so much I bought the cassette. Now I know it's the album that broke the band.
Leading off Don't Tell A Soul is Talent Show, a perfect example of what the band was thinking as it is now their "turn". With a bit of nerves, and healthy dose of doubt, Paul sings:
"Well, it's the biggest thing in my life, I guess
Look at us all, we're nervous wrecks
Hey, we go on next"
And then he closes the song with the leap into the unknown-- "It's too late to turn back, here we go."
The reluctance and dread over what they're doing doesn't stop with Talent Show, on Anywhere's Better Than Here, Paul reveals one of his finest thoughts:
"They play with your head
But they never stroke your hair"
But he's torn, conflicted at the decision, but he finally wants to be understood. On Achin' To Be Paul claims:
"I've been achin' for a while now, friend
I've been achin' hard for years"
The misunderstood poet finally wants to be heard, but at what cost. Then on I'll Be You, Paul knows this whole act is far too late, so what's the point.
"A dream too tired to come true
Left a rebel without a clue"
And then as the album wraps, Paul's self deprecation shines when he sings the saddest song on the album, Rock 'n Roll Ghost. And Darlin' One could possibly be Paul finally wondering what he'd done to their sound, he shoulders the blame as he sings:
"So young and tame
I was to blame"
Key Tracks: Talent Show, Achin' To Be, I'll Be You, Anywhere's Better Than Here, Rock 'n Roll Ghost
1. Talent Show
2. Back to Back
3. We'll Inherit the Earth
4. Achin' to Be
5. They're Blind
6. Anywhere's Better Than Here
7. Asking Me Lies
8. I'll Be You
9. I Won't
10. Rock 'n' Roll Ghost
11. Darlin' One