Color Me Obsessed: A Film About The Replacements
Music doc turns to fans for insider info on indie band
By Geoff Plant
Color Me Obsessed: A Film About The Replacements
Directed by Gorman Bechard
Cast: Steve Albini, Tom Arnold, The Goo Goo Dolls, Legs McNeil
In his first documentary, Friends (With Benefits) writer and director Gorman Bechard takes viewers through a chronological history of Minneapolis/St. Paul-based The Replacements, a post-punk quartet that once made a big splash in a small pond. Banding together in 1979, the pioneering alternative rockers lasted through the following decade almost despite themselves. Color Me Obsessed: A Film About the Replacements takes us on a trip down this musical backroad with the friends and fans who love them still serving as tour guides.
Bechard relies on interviews to provide the band’s story—though none of these interviews is with a band member. In fact, there is no live footage of the band whatsoever in Color Me Obsessed. Unseen or rare live footage is content that most would expect to find in a music documentary. However, it’s clear that Bechard did not have the band’s cooperation, as there are barely a half-dozen sightings of them in pictures and a couple sketches by guitarist Bob Stinson. There’s no music from The Replacements and not even a single image of an album cover. This makes the documentary something that will appeal mostly to fans. Although the story is an interesting one, anyone watching will benefit greatly by knowing The Replacements’ catalog.
Nearly everyone interviewed in Color Me Obsessed tells the camera what The Replacements mean to them, and that fan’s eye view is really what the film is all about. As one of the many record store clerks interviewed says, “The music that you listen to between 13 and 20, you never quite get over that.” It’s apparent that many Replacements fans are going to continue being obsessed with the band until their dying day.
Since most of the interview subjects were in their teens or 20s when they were super into The Replacements, we are treated to a plethora of pudgy, middle-aged white people sitting on futon couches in front of extensive record and CD collections housed in tidy homes. All of them seem to feel part of a private club in which the world was once viewed only through lyrics in Replacements songs. They all also agree that their favorite band shot itself in the foot over and over again, seemingly on purpose at times, thus avoiding the stardom it surely deserved.
The members of The Replacements were legendary drinkers and known for their hit-or-miss shows, which were as brilliant one night as they were disastrous the next. The film is chock-full of anecdotes from folks who attended anywhere from three to 300 Replacements shows, largely in the Twin Cities and mostly during the earlier years of the band’s existence—which is to say, the best period.
Fans and friends—including some famous ones like George Wendt and Tom Arnold, rock critics like Legs McNeil and Robert Christgau, and musicians and producers such as The Goo Goo Dolls and Steve Albini—recount bad shows, great shows, drunken stunts, fights and the like.
You will learn that The Replacements sometimes played only a handful of original songs in sets comprised of Cheap Trick, Kiss and Elvis covers. You will hear about the time Paul Westerberg and some other band members once stole what they thought were the master tapes of their first four records from the Twin/Tone Records office and threw them in the Mississippi. (They weren’t the only copies.) Bob Stinson really did play shows in a tutu, standing in a garbage can.
As we roll through the years, the signposts in this documentary are the band’s record releases, and the sales of each are compared to the same year’s biggest-selling album. This might be depressing or funny, but it definitely depicts the place The Replacements occupied in ’80s music culture. A very tiny, private place.
For example, Tim—released in 1985 on major label Sire and probably the band’s most accessible album—has sold a total of 145,000 copies to date, while Bruce Springsteen's concurrent Born in the USA has sold more than 15 million copies. When The Replacements catalog was reissued in 2008, it barely sold at all, with some of the reissued albums averaging less than 5,000 copies. A few weeks ago, I tried tracking down the group’s first record, Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take out the Trash and discovered there were no Replacements albums for sale anywhere in Albuquerque, save for one copy of Pleased to Meet Me. Part of the mystique here is the natural obscurity of a band so many rave about.
Although this is a documentary that will suit fans best, the way the interviews are edited together keeps the film moving along nicely, with each subject contributing to one cohesive narrative. So whether you’re a hardcore fan or not, Color Me Obsessed tells its story with such economy that anyone with any predilection toward the ’Mats should be able to enjoy the tale.
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