Here's my pick for the best Replacements/Hüsker Dü-sounding record ever made by a band that isn't either The Replacements or Hüsker Dü: "Thwap!", from Modern Machines. This isn't an easy album to find right now, as the CD seems to be long gone and whenever copies of the vinyl repress pop up for sale through the various mail-order places they seem to go out of stock as quickly as they show up (my copy is one of the represses, by the way-- I stuck the original artwork somewhere down towards the middle of this post). Of course, vinyl isn't any good for people who don't own record players, so I'm gonna post a few tracks for those who are turntably-challenged.
Rest assured, if Modern Machines happen to sound a lot like The Replacements here, specifically "Hootennany"-era Replacements, it's not some calculated career move on their part like some other bands I could mention (I'd name names, but I've forgotten how to spell Titanic Love Affair). This just happens to be what Modern Machines sounded like at the time, Nato's voice being pretty similar to Bob Mould's notwithstanding. They even cover a song from "Hootennany" on this LP-- "Run It", the Replacements song that I named my first fanzine after-- and the album's final track, "There's a Problem With The Beer" ("There doesn't seem to be one here"), is an almost perfect combination of "Treatment Bound" with "Goddamn Job"-type lyrics. Plus, "Thwap!" was recorded at Simple Studios in Green Bay, which is where all of the great Boris The Sprinkler stuff was recorded. What could be better than that?
The LP comes with a neat little 12-page zine that has lyrics and background stories for each song, as well as pictures and tour stories and other stuff. I've scanned about half of the pages here, and you can read each page by clicking on the thumbnail sketches below. (The "old guy" on the cover of the zine and the album is William Taft, who once got stuck in the bathtub at the White House-- hence the hilarity.)
Modern Machines -
"Look Me In The Eye"
"Sick Of This Conversation"
"The City That Never Wakes Up"
"There's a Problem With The Beer"
(these files are now listen-only)
Postscript: I got to see Modern Machines towards the tail end of their existence when they were already sporting the line-up (featuring Mikey Erg on drums) that would soon be morphing into a new band, called Used Kids. There's been a half-dozen or so shows I've been to in my life that have stood out because something great ended up happening where I wasn't expecting anything-- a band that I really liked showing up to play unannounced, or some unknown opening band blowing away every other band on the bill-- and this was one of those shows.
Modern Machines were running late coming in from upstate New York, and by the time they got to the club it was 6 hours after the doors had opened. All the other bands had already played and left, leaving just me and maybe one or two other people on hand. Modern Machines set up to play anyway, and ripped through one of the best sets I've ever seen, in front of no crowd at all. Eventually, one of the other bands that had stuck around to drink in the parking lot came inside and started passing a case of beer around, which was pretty funny (it was an all-ages club, but it was pretty much completely empty at this point). Someone else was handing out homemade burritos. For the handful of people who stuck around it was like having our own private houseparty, and as Modern Machines kept playing we were all looking at each other, like "Are these guys friggin' amazing, or what?"
One of my pictures from that show (which was actually Used Kids, we just didn't know it yet) ended up on the back of the first Used Kids 7-inch. I'm gonna post the a-side from that record here, but it's a "listen-only" track (no downloading), since it just came out less than two months ago, and I'd rather you send 5 bucks to Salinas Records and buy your own copy (plus Marco at Salinas seems like a really cool guy).
Used Kids -
Update 9/7/08: Now the Used Kids' own MySpace has the songs from their Salinas EP available for downloading (plus they've posted a great demo track, "An Honorable Man"), so I guess that means it's OK. The track I've posted here is now downloadable.
11/9/08: Back to listen-only!