I throw Pavement albums across the room now because I loved them. In my adolescence I pullled singers and players close who abjured virtuosity. That’s the trouble with listening to the Replacements these days. After all, what is their legacy? If I’d had the space in my first review for the Chicago Reader of Bob Mehr’s prodigious Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements I would have assessed their catalog. The revered Let It Be and Bob Stinson-free Tim are roughly equivalent to my ears, the latter by the band’s obvious loss of interest in the fast material. The subject of mixing board manipulations befitting a purported major label breakthrough, Pleased to Meet Me often appalls me: leave “Shootin’ Dirty Pool” to the Fabulous Thunderbirds and “Red Red Wine” to Peter Wolf, gents. Their last two albums are two of the saddest would-be mainstream accommodations released in that Mesozoic Era of college radio crossovers.

But here’s the funny thing about adolescent taste: call it a palimpsest, not Ten Commandments on an Alabama Supreme Court wall. Those albums released before the 1984 breakthrough represent the most salutary kind of famished: Paul Westerberg, the Stinson brothers, and Chris Mars out on the street for a livin’, careening, in Rob Sheffield’s fabulous phrase, in search of cigarettes and cheeseburgers. I regard the later work as a series of decaying tableaux, capturing poses of the inelegantly wasted, ever more mephitic. Uninterested in anything as banal as an arc of a career, Westerberg hid behind a melodic talent he was at pains to roughen, for the melodies conveyed the sentimentality of a coarse alcoholic losing the ability to entertain himself; the point of sentimentality is to impress as many spectators, reluctant and otherwise, with its self-deluded world-historic importance. Hence “Sadly Beautiful” and the mangled pre-Out of Time attempts at dulcet nothingness of All Shook Down. But these developments produced “Alex Chilton,” a half-hearted paean to a hero that, if you think about it, doesn’t work: Westerberg in 1987 could only mythologize his own failures. That’s how sentimentality works — and cripples. But how beautiful Tommy Stinson looks in the video, especially when he suggests he wants to sneeze in your face. The “but” is the Replacemens’ tragedy, and the worm on the hook for the rest of us.

1. Left of the Dial
2. My Favorite Thing
3. I Will Dare
4. Here Comes a Regular
5. Alex Chilton
6. Color Me Impressed
7. Kids Don’t Follow
8. I’ll Be You
9. Skyway
10. Takin’ a Ride
11. More Cigarettes
12. Within Your Reach
13. Can’t Hardly Wait
14. Hold My Life
15. Black Diamond
16. Fuck School
17. Little Mascara
18. Gary’s Got a Boner
19. Kick Your Door Down
20. God Damn Job
21. Waitress in the Sky
22. Take Me Down to the Hospital
23. The Ledge
24. I Won’t
25. Run It
26. Merry-Go-Round
27. Sixteen Blue
28. Answering Machine
29. Swingin’ Party
30. Willpower