The BBC’s consistently infuriating Seven Ages Of Rock reached episode six and college rock/alternative rock/grunge – call it what you will. There were small flashes of the Pixies, Black Flag, Mudhoney and Hüsker Dü, but the bulk of the programme was predictably given over to REM and Nirvana. The ‘Mats had a fleeting presence due mainly to their song “Left Of The Dial” being used as the title.
It had me giving Tim, the album it comes from, a spin for the first time in too long. I was going to do something on “Here Comes A Regular”, but then thought – sod that. It’s just too fucking heart-breaking. Maybe another time. “Bastards Of Young” is the Replacements at their snotty, irresponsible best. Tim is packed chock-full of great sing-along melodies, but still retains some of the band’s trashy rough and ready approach. The production is a bit eighties, with that big snare sound that just everybody had at the time from Madonna downwards (on her “Live to Tell” it’s utterly ridiculous). But radio friendly production could never quite tame the ‘Mats into a slick rock act.
For all its melodic charm, and rousing, ramshackle sing-along impishness, “Bastards Of Young” is a serious song about the generation left behind by Reagan’s “new morning”. “God, what a mess, on the ladder of success / Where you take one step and miss the whole first rung / Dreams unfulfilled, graduate unskilled / It beats pickin’ cotton and waitin’ to be forgotten“. It is probably the definitive Generation X anthem for the swarthes of poor, downtrodden, aimless, ignored and forgotten youth for whom the establishment had “no word to name us“. The chorus is almost a proud, rallying declamation: “We are the sons of no one, bastards of young“. As if wilfully sabotaging their own work, the song ends in shambolic chaos with everybody seemingly launching into different tunes. It’s symbolic for the slacker “will this do?” attitude that the band often seemed to be the figurehead for.
Tim was the group’s first major label record. Along with Let It Be, the group’s last album for indie Twin Tone, it showed a band at the peak of its powers. Three more albums for Sire would follow – each not quite as good as the one before. They’d do plenty more great songs, but the decline was steady. Paul Westerberg’s solo career has been pretty erratic since. He’s consistently inconsistent. Only Suicaine Gratification keeps the bar constantly high from start to finish. He’s never made a rotten album, though.