Slim Dunlap, more than a Replacement


September 17, 1993|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

Flood Relief '93

What: Festival featuring the Smithereens, the Judybats, Dramarama, An Emotional Fish, Dog Society, Slim Dunlap and the Woodies

When: Tomorrow; gates open at 11:30 a.m.

Where: Bohager's, Eastern Avenue and Eden Street

Tickets: $12 in advance, $15 day of show; to benefit American Red Cross flood relief

PD Call: (410) 563-7220 for information; (410) 481-7328 for tickets For Slim Dunlap, being a former member of the Replacements both a blessing and a curse.

On the one hand, having the phrase "of the Replacements" following his name immediately raises him above the level of new-band anonymity. "It has brought me a lot of attention," he admits over the phone from his home in Minneapolis. "So I can't really sneer at it.

"But the fact that my record is quite different from that music makes it a little difficult, because people sometimes buy it hoping that it'll sound like the Replacements. I deliberately tried to not sound like the Replacements."

Why not?

"Because the Replacements didn't make it, damn it!" he laughs.

True, the Replacements were never much of a commercial success. But on an artistic level, the band ranks among the brightest lights of the post-punk era. Not only was their sound -- by turns raucous, lithe, joyful and sentimental -- unlike anything else on the alternative rock scene, but the songs Paul Westerberg wrote for the band were among the most tuneful and touching ever to bubble up from the rock and roll underground.

"Talent is an undeniable thing, and that's the magic of a guy like Paul," agrees Dunlap. "He has something that the music business can never understand. It's frustrating to him [that his songs aren't hits], but he knows in his heart that there are people out there that do love what he does, that the things he has done have reached across."

Unfortunately, Westerberg's songs are only part of what people remember about the Replacements; the rest had to do with the band's reputation for misbehavior and onstage inebriation. And it was that part of the Replacements' legend, says Dunlap, that ultimately did the band in.

"The story of the Replacements at the time just got to be too big to keep up with," he says. "People can't get as drunk as we supposedly did without dying. And it got near the end of the band there where, when me and Paul sobered up, people wanted us to still be drunk. That's why I was at the time kind of thinking that maybe we should hang it up. There just was nowhere to go."

Except to go solo. So Dunlap lit out on his own.

Getting an album's worth of material together was easy. "I've always written," says Dunlap. "Writing is like doing crossword puzzles or something like that. It's a little kind of game I play with myself.

"My record is kind of a sampler of all the different kinds of rock and roll that I like," he continues. "The Stones influence, the Muddy Waters blues roots, the Keith Richards backbeat guitar -- that's always been my kind of thing. To me, rock and roll as a pure form isn't really being made much anymore. It's kind of a vanishing thing."

Dunlap's album, "The Old New Me," came out over the summer, and he himself has been on the road for most of the year. "I've been the world over," he says. "I've been everywhere."

But as much as he likes touring, there's one thing he has trouble with -- playing the same songs night after night. "I cannot stand playing the same music very long," he says, laughing. "Not even my own music. As I get older, the only thing that keeps me playing is I love to play new music. That's why I keep writing -- constantly."

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