The first time I heard The Replacements I was not cool. It was 1999 and I was a shy, lonely twelve year old who had just rented Can’t Hardly Wait on VHS to watch at her grandmother’s house in Michigan. The movie itself was fun but forgettable and, I realized once I’d actually started high school, completely divorced from any of my own experiences. But I’ll always remember the second that opening chord progression hit over the closing credits, warm and inviting as a friend’s arm slung over your shoulder, the drums kicking in soon after, as the images of fake good times and memories scrolled by.
It’s a fairly straightforward song and, given its general upbeatness including the use of some funky horns, a bit of an anomaly in the Replacements catalog, something I learned the hard way after checking out Tim from the library not long after seeing the movie. Young me was unprepared for the more raucous, caustic side of the band but tastes change as we grow older and by the time I was in college I had discovered the pleasures of Let It Be and Pleased to Meet Me, on which “Can’t Hardly Wait” appears. As far as instant nostalgia goes, its Pavlovian effect is unparalleled for me. It’s about another time, sure – nobody has to worry about writing a letter tomorrow or borrowing a stamp when there’s text messaging. But it’s much more than that and it’s all in the title, which also provides the only lyrics to the chorus. “Can’t wait” is tossed-off excitement but “Can’t hardly wait”? That’s pure teenage ecstasy.
This Friday I will be seeing The Replacements in concert for the first time. I’m still not that cool and the show will likely not live up to whatever idea I have of the band from the old records I’ve listened to and loved. They’re not what they were, any more than I am what I used to be. But even so I can’t, well, you know the rest.
The Replacements play Forest Hills Stadium in Queens on Friday. Young old people and old young people will be there.