Thursday, December 20, 2012
I first heard The Replacements in the mid-80's when a friend gave me a soundboard bootleg of the band playing The Pop Shop in Cleveland in 1984 and I really didn't know what to think of the band's drunkenly slurred version of the Marine Corps Hymn segueing into Kiss' "Black Diamond". Once I heard Let It Be, it all 'clicked' and I was a die-hard fan by the time Tim rolled around. Pleased To Meet Me (the first post-Bob Stinson album) had some good songs (and the demos recorded with Stinson before his departure showed what this album could have been) but Don't Tell A Soul was a disappointing reach for the mainstream. The firing of drummer Chris Mars and the completely forgettable All Shook Down was a regrettable note on which the band ended their career.
So...to get to the point of this review, "Color Me Obsessed" is a 2xDVD set that tells the story of The Replacements through the eyes of the fans. These fans are an eclectic mix of musicians (which include Greg Norton, Grant Hart, Craig Finn, etc.), music critics and journalists, actors and 'normal' concert goers. This is where "Color Me Obsessed" differs from other bio pics as there is no footage of The Replacements or any of its members (live or interview) used - the viewer needs to rely on the 'I was there' narrative of the various fans to build a mental picture of the time and place being described.
The challenge with this sort of picture is that if you weren't around during the original run of The Replacements, you have nothing to anchor to and this film becomes a bunch of talking heads going on and on about how 'this band could have changed your life'. The fan footage is interesting, brilliant in parts but ultimately drags on a bit long. Listening to Grant Hart (who I still believe can do no wrong), Terry Katzman and Mark Trehus (both longtime label/record store owners), Jack Rabid and Robert Christgau (longtime music writers/critics) added color to the band's history. Watching Dave Foley talk about how Kids in the Hall wanted to be 'The Replacements of Comedy' or Geroge Wendt ponder whether "Here Comes a Regular" was written about his Cheers character Norm was somewhat suspect. Watching fans reminisce about how they drove to a Don't Tell a Soul era concert and made out with Tommy doesn't add a lot of value. One of the "fan" interviewees was so stalker/creepy, I didn't know whether to laugh or cringe.
The bottom line is that if you weren't already a Replacements fan prior to watching "Color Me Obsessed", this film isn't going to covert you. You might actually have a hard time making it through the "the band could have been your life" stories without any music from the band to back up these claims as the same thing has been said about the Velvet Underground, Mission of Burma, Minor Threat and many other bands where the legend of the band peaked long after the breakup.
As a long time fan (I guess I can still call myself that), I learned a few things from watching the film. Specifically, I wasn't aware that there was such a power struggle between Paul Westerberg and Bob Stinson. Insider commentary talked about how there was inherent tension from the beginning as Paul joined Bob's band and later - Bob didn't want any part of the the mainstream commercial direction that Paul wanted to take the band. Most of the people interviewed for the film seemed to agree that Bob's departure was the beginning of the end.
Overall - this narrative history of The Replacements was interesting but this isn't a film I would watch more than once every couple of years. In my mind, the video below shows the magic of the original Replacements better than any talking heads.
Getting back on point - the bonus DVD contains uncut interviews with Grant Hart, Robert Christgau, and Jim DeRogatis with Greg Kot, which run an hour each. There are also nineteen deleted scenes (same sort of stuff that is on Disc One) along with interviews with director Gorman Bechard and producer Hansi Oppenheimer.
Color Me Obsessed