The Great Songs: The Replacements – Unsatisfied

by Eric Melin on August 4, 2010

in Columns,The Great Songs

Just for fun, before writing about this week’s Great Song, I Wiki’ed the band: The Replacements. What I got first was a general Wiki link asking me whether I was looking for the movie, an episode of “Band of Brothers,” a short story, a TV series, or the “American alternative rock group.”

The fact that the greatest rock n’ roll band of the 1980s is even referred to as “alternative” is hilarious.

the replacements let it be 1984While everyone else in the rock underground were wearing paisley shirts and doing their best to imitate the English New Wave, The Replacements were getting drunk and singing about growing up, being confused, and being pissed off. In 1984, they released “Let it Be” (the title chosen to get the goat of their manager, a big Beatles fan, and to prove that nothing is sacred) on a tiny Minneapolis indie label called Twin/Tone. It may not have seemed too important at the time, but now its regarded as one of the finest rock albums ever recorded. (Spin called it the 12th Greatest Record of All-Time.)

Picking a favorite Replacements song is like picking the best Scorsese movie—there is an embarrassment of riches to choose from. The one I picked today is simple, honest, and absolutely universal. The title pretty much sums it up.

Written by Paul Westerberg, who always sang as if the weight of the world were on his shoulders (and he could give a fuck), “Unsatisfied” is simple, repetitive, loose, and perfect.

Opening with a 12-string guitar intro that’s reminiscent of KISS’ “Rock Bottom” (that band’s “Black Diamond” is covered on “Let it Be”), it sets the stage for a pretty little number. What you get instead is Westerberg mumbling, ranting, and crying for help.

90 percent of the lyrics in the song are right here: “Look me in the eye then tell me that I’m satisfied / Hey, are you satisfied?” It’s more than a statement, it’s a taunt. Summing up the listless feeling of youth and uncertainty about the future isn’t easy to do in language that plain-spoken, but Westerberg does it. And the delivery sells it.

Even with all the bright and pretty guitars, the band (Bob Stinson on guitar, his 17-year old brother Tommy on bass, Chris Mars on the drums) plays it reckless, like a punk rock tune. The song is mostly chorus, but the second verse goes something like this: “Everything goes, anything goes, all of the time / Everything you dream of is right in front of you / And everything is a lie” I’m not actually sure about that last line; never have been. It means what I want it to mean.

At the end, the song devolves: “I’m so , I’m so…unsatisfied.” There have been certain times in my life where nothing has seemed so poetic as this song. It’s cathartic for sure, but it’s better than John Lennon’s “primal scream therapy” stuff because there’s a melodic sense to it that thrives and lives through the chaos. I wonder sometimes where voices like this are for the younger generations right now. I wonder who it is that speaks to them like Westerberg and The ‘Mats speak to me.

The Great Songs series so far:

The Great Songs: Big Star – Thirteen

The Great Songs: The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset

The Great Songs: The Jayhawks – Blue

The Great Songs: Pavement – Summer Babe

The Great Songs: The Zombies – Care of Cell 44

The Great Songs: The O’Jays – Back Stabbers

The Great Songs: Queen & David Bowie – Under Pressure

The Great Songs: George Jones – He Stopped Loving Her Today

The Great Songs: Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart

The Great Songs: KISS – Deuce

The Great Songs: The Flying Burrito Brothers – Hot Burrito #1

The Great Songs: The Flaming Lips – Do You Realize??

The Great Songs: Pink Floyd – Astronomy Domine

The Great Songs: The Beach Boys – Surf’s Up

The Great Songs: Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get it On

The Great Songs: Slayer – Angel of Death

The Great Songs: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Beyond Belief

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers and regular critic for KCTV5. He’s a member of the BFCA, VP of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also the current 2013 Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dyin Cletus August 4, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Awesome write-up, Eric. A great song, classic album…overrated band? Sorry. This is my Huskers allegiance coming out. But seriously, the song is chills-inducing, and I can’t think of a better ‘tear in my beer’ anthem I’ve ever heard. Keep ‘em coming.

P.S. “Celebrated Summer” for inclusion!

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2 Xavier August 4, 2010 at 3:14 pm

I’d have to say that my favorite would be either this or Bastards of Young, although Left of the Dial would be pretty close too. I’ve always preferred sugar to Husker Du as well, copper blue is one of my favorite albums of all time

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3 Eric Melin August 4, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Cletus- Glad you dig it. In reaction to the term ‘overrated,’ I would say no. I am a huge fan of Husker Du (and Soul Asylum for that matter), but that in no way diminishes my love for the ‘Mats! If I was to choose a Husker song, that would probably be the one!

Xavier- Wow. Bastards and Left of the Dial are definitely in my Top 10 maybe even 5 ‘Mats tunes–nice! Although, Sugar > Husker Du? Crazy talk!

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4 Xavier August 4, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Its just how I feel, copper blue is one of my favorite albums and If I Can’t Change Your Mind is one of my favorite songs

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5 Eric Melin August 4, 2010 at 9:57 pm

I Can’t Change Your Mind is a great tune!

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6 Xavier August 5, 2010 at 8:38 am

I don’t know maybe I’d be willing to conceed that Husker Du are better than Sugar overall, but I do think that Copper Blue is better than any single album that Husker Du released

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7 Rich Yarges August 5, 2010 at 10:16 am

Nice job Bobbie! Very poetic indeed. I was always partial to “Answering Machine” if I had to pick just one from this album. There is no voice for this generation. That may be the problem. Just check my Daughter’s MP3 player. What is on it? The Beatles, The Replacements, The Clash, Ramones, NIrvana etc…

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8 cleavy August 11, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Awesome, awesome note on my favorite Replacements song – very well-expressed Melin! I’d say my second fav would be Answering Machine (hi Yarges!), but it’s close – in terms of delivery and sentiment, they’re similar, in my opinion. Anyway, you nailed this one, Melin! =D

(I listen to the Replacements comp that you made me about 4 years ago ALL the time!)

Thanks!

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