Two of my favorite pop culture icons hail from Minneapolis: “Mystery Science Theater 3000” and The Replacements. Both were unknown to many and beloved by few — I wonder how much the two fan bases overlap; my guess is “not much,” but you never know. I was surprised that The Replacements never broke out of their cult status, considering the pop sensibilities of their last few albums, but the early ’90s were a time when radio stations were segmented by such idiotic categories as “classic rock” and “college rock” (or “alternative music”). To me, whether it was Led Zeppelin or The Replacements, it was all rock ‘n’ roll, and I appreciated it.
I’m surprised it took so long for someone to make an in-depth Replacements documentary, but “Color Me Obsessed” is an exhaustive look at the band, featuring over 140 interviews with two-third of the group’s Minneapolis “rivals,” Hüsker Dü (not sure why Bob Mould doesn’t show up), the members of Goo Goo Dolls, rock critic Robert Christgau, actors George Wendt, Dave Foley, and Tom Arnold, and dozens of others, including die-hard fans.
None of the band members appear, not even in concert clips, nor do you hear any of their music. Those choices were very deliberate, as director Gorman Bechard explains in his commentary. While that may go against what you would expect from a rock ‘n’ roll documentary, as Bechard goes on to point out, it’s something you should expect from a documentary about a band that broke as many rules as it could. In fact, I don’t know if you could find another rock ‘n’ roll documentary in which some of the participants talk about how awful the band was during certain concerts.
I only saw The Replacements once, when they played at Rutgers during their final tour. I recall that it was a pretty by-the-numbers show, a far cry from the wildness of their early concerts, as described by many “Color Me Obsessed” interviewees. Much of that chaos was due to Bob Stinson, who spent the first few songs of one show playing pinball with one of the attendees before wandering over to the stage, only to be kicked in the face by Paul Westerberg when he tried to join his band mates.
That’s just one of many stories told during this two-hour documentary, which in the end feels like hanging out with a huge group of people and just taking in all their fascinating tales. It’s amazing that the band managed to survive its early days, between its many poorly-received concerts and Stinson’s erratic behavior. In fact, Bechard says during an hour-long interview in the bonus features that the first time he saw The Replacements do a show, he thought they were so bad that he and his friend turned their backs to the band.
Hansi Oppenheimer, who originally conceived of this film before turning it over to Bechard, also appears in the bonus features to talk about how the project came about and why she needed to hand it off to someone more experienced. Those interviews appear on the second disc, along with a couple trailers and the full interviews with Hüsker Dü’s Grant Hart and music critics Greg Kot, Jim DeRogatis, and Robert Christgau. Disc one serves up 19 deleted scenes, along with separate commentaries by Bechard and producer Jan Radder.
By the time you’re done with the hours of material on these two discs, you’ll have thoroughly explored the world of The Replacements. If you love this band as much as I do, you’ll be in heaven. Just don’t tell a soul.