The Replacements, “Poke Me In My Cage” (2014): One Track Mind

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There are things you expect from the Replacements. Namely, raw riffs, rangy vocals, barf on your shoes. But this — a 24-minute-plus free-form improvisation? Not even a little bit.

In fits and starts, tantrums and weird exclamations, they explore ever outward, fashioning something like Captain Beefheart meets Sonny Sharrock meets Gil Scott-Heron. It’s more than 16 minutes in before Paul Westerberg offers any sort of vocal, and only after taking you through enough centrifugal musical turns to plaster your brain to the side of your skull.

But these aren’t lyrics so much as eruptive blurts: something about a porcupine, something about a clitoris, weird poetry slam-style word play — and, yeah, the song title. Certainly, in this unsettled, wide-open space, Westerberg’s cries of “poke me in my cage” gain resonance. It’s as if he admitting how difficult its been to live up to the presumptions surrounding the Replacements.

As such, “Poke Me In My Cage,” recorded at Waltham, Massachusett’s Wooly Mammoth Sound, could represent a new direction for the Replacements, while Westerberg and Tommy Stinson consider recording new music after a recent reunion that was as unexpected as it was well received.

Then again, maybe this song is nothing more than off-handed attempt at puncturing those expectations.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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