Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Certain Songs #1857: The Replacements – “Willpower” | Medialoper

Album: Hootenanny
Year: 1983

. . .

I don’t wanna stop it

Those looking for any kind of consistency on Hootenanny probably gave up right here. Following the glorious punk-pop party of “Color Me Impressed” with a long, echoing — let’s just call it — goth hangover was as off-putting as it was obstinate genius.

Willpower changed my mind
Willpower changed my mind

Stop it
Stop it
Stop it

Formally, “Willpower” echos the slower bass-heavy sound of “Johnny’s Gonna Die” or “Go,” but cranks up the ambiance to about a million, bouncing Paul Westerberg’s lead vocals all around the speakers, as he confronts the inevitable consequences of the behavior he was celebrating in “Color Me Impressed.”

Willpower changed your mind
Minutes seems like hours
Take yours don’t take mine

And in case you’re wondering about the stakes here, there’s a very clear, very serious spoken word “my life” in the midst of all of the echo, just before the harrowing “minutes seem like hours,” as Chris Mars and Tommy Stinson just continue to play slow and steady, ratcheting up the tension by hardly doing anything at all.

And so, with only a series modulations, “Willpower” lurches inevitably forward for minutes, hours. At some point Bob Stinson chimes in with a typically unhinged guitar solo, but it too obeys when Paul screams “stop it” over and over and over.

But, of course, it wouldn’t be the Replacements without some kind of contradiction, and so “Willpower” spends its last minute with a zillion echoed Pauls whinging “I don’t wanna stop it” echoed and tape looped and sped up and scary and intense and weird. And remember, given that I hadn’t yet heard “Johnny’s Gonna Die” or “Go” when I got Hootenanny, “Willpower” was kind of a mind-fuck, which took some time for me to understand. I mean punk-pop and fast blues and surf songs and drunken Beatles pastiches, sure. That all made sense. This one didn’t.

I mean, of course, until it did, years — really, decades — later.


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