left of the dial – every issue i pick up a handful of tribute lps i could review, but ultimately decline. if you love the originals, you get turned off by an hour of third-rate covers and needless replication by lesser lights. “left of the dial” is among the intermittent opposites: it’s a good time instead of a major downer.
probably its success is down to its conception. though the replacements were america’s premier ’80s garage band, there was always that supremely developed pop side to paul westerberg’s inspired writing that bubbled up so clearly out of the scrawk, pummel, and roll. so, instead of assembling a bunch of new punk-garage misfits to zerox the gasket-blowing, sloppy-thick originals, these 24 paying homage are a stack of underground bands that still rock, but approach the originals as more powerful pop to be played tightly (a few like the marlowes, who do a fine job with “alex chilton”, lolas, and [taggart] still go for the controlled, fast chaotic, slop-bucket charm). with the exception of only one or two duds (the andersons ruin “nobody”), everyone has the right idea, right from the happy regrets opener of “kiss me on the bus”.
the recording quality is surprisingly high – this is not a bunch of bad-sounding, thrown-together 4-tracks- and several, like the dipsomaniacs’ “can’t hardly wait” should bring an instant smile to anyone who loved the group in the old days. it’d be nice to see a few more here take on “sorry ma…” and “stink” (hurrah for [taggart’s] “don’t ask why“) but otherwise high marks!
i’d give plenty to be in the front row at danceteria, folk city, gildersleeves, cbgb, or irving plaza again. the songs always win. (big takeover)