#15: The Replacements, ‘Let it Be’ (1984) vs. Lucinda Williams, ‘Car Wheels on a Gravel Road’ (1998)


I really hate to say it, but this should be a lot closer of a competition that it is. I saw Lucinda Williams live and she is magnetic. I was captivated by her swagger and command of the stage and this was only a few years ago. Boy could she hold a crowd. She just owned that stage. It made me wanna rush home and try to appreciate Car Wheels on a Gravel Road for the umpteenth time. And like all the other umpth-times it fell flat for me – umphh!- and did not take. Based on seeing that live show, I am certain that it is me and not her that is the problem. I am quite sure I am wrong on this and if the VanJam Music War ends in a one point differential, there is a justifiable case for an asterisk designation that will require a reassessment of the whole project. I fully expect this album to click for me eventually.  Foot stompin’ songs like “Joy” and “Can’t Let Go” will no doubt be my gateway into appreciation so I can eventually fall in love with more mature contemplative songs like “Drunken Angel” and “Jackson”.  I’ll get there someday I am sure.  Lucinda is an Americana goddess with nothing to prove.  I just gotta catch up.

Let it Be, however, is another story. This one hit me late in life and it hit me hard. This is not just the most accessible punk album I have ever heard, it is also just good plain songwriting.  If the Beatles made a punk album (and really tried hard at making it authentic) it would come out sounding  a lot like Let it Be (just realized the connection right now). Case in point is the first track.  The undeniably catchy “I Will Dare” can’t help but put one in a happy mood.  The shimmering guitar, the poppin’ up-tempo bass lick, and ragged vocal cries are a complete delight.  Go ahead, I dare you to not be smiling from ear to ear after listening to that song. There are so many other alt-beautiful moments throughout the album. “Androgynous” stands out as a sweet non-conformist ballad to punk youth entering a new world of adult society. The piano progressions and melodic punk vocals inject validity to a punk culture that can no longer stand in the shadows.  The complexities of love are just as valid in punk society as they are in the mainstream. At its heart, it’s a punk album, but it’s really a lot more than that. You can hear elements of hard rock, folk, pop and, dare I even say it, the seeds of grunge! Its influence on the indie rock scene can’t be overlooked. I don’t doubt that any member of a future 80s or 90s rock, punk, or grunge band had a copy of Let it Be in heavy rotation in their bedroom. Elements of its brilliance and influence on others are scattered throughout every Indie rock album in this VanJam Music War.


WINNER: The Replacements, Let it Be (4 points)


80s: 15

90s: 21

80s: 35
90s: 49

Next week’s post – #14: Peter Gabriel, ‘So’ (1986) vs. Snoop Dogg, ‘Doggystyle’ (1993)

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