Is a band four people and a set of songs or is a band the impact that they have on the fans? Color Me Obsessed: A Film About the Replacements argues the latter, though the viewpoint is so tied to fandom, director Gorman Bechard can’t seem to fathom any other answer. But, given a band that has a mythology as deep as those self-destructive weirdoes which fans call “The ‘Mats,” even if the answer is limited, it’s still a perfect description.
By now, the story is legendary. The Replacements hailed from Minneapolis. After forming in the punk scene, they expanded to a both more mature and more youthful sound that would come to define indie rock through lyrics that were introspective, sometimes weird, and sometimes destructive. The band, too, were self destructive, with members often fighting on stage. And of course, their shows are things of a saga, with some sets being all covers, some ending with the band brawling, or others with a band so drunk that they couldn’t even face the right direction.
Color Me Obsessed traces the history of the Replacements through the eyes of rock critics and people who are nothing more than mega fans. Starting out as their origins as “Dogbreath,” the documentary follows the band through their major label jump to their destruction, as told through the perspective of witnesses.
Notably, the Replacements themselves don’t appear in this documentary. But in their place is about two dozen eyewitnesses to the band’s actions. Tellingly, each of the fans and critics are really, really, really into the band, so they are more than just reporters, but seem to have a personal stake in the game. Thus, in lieu of hard facts about the band, the doc focuses on people’s opinion of the band’s various live incarnations, layman psychoanalysis of their actions and reports about what they meant to people. It’s just as interesting to see how much a band can mean to some people. Several of the participants break down and cry while talking about the band, which both acts as a testament to the band’s skill and how creepy some people can be.
“Dean of Rock Critics” Robert Christgau acts as a sort of outline for the documentary, dropping in at the beginning of each new chapter, explaining the strength and faults of Replacements' respective albums. Christgau himself excels, showing that despite his four decades of rock music criticism, he’s still a fan, able to convey what makes music special through effortless simplicity, while talking about music he loves with a respectable detachment. Also, The Hold Steady, Brian Fallon, Titus Andronicus, Tom Arnold and Norm from Cheers show up to talk about how much they loved the band, which is fun.
Color Me Obsessed does roughly tell the story of the Replacements, but without the members themselves, the doc can’t tell the band’s complete history. But because there is so much focus on fandom here, the story isn’t so much about the band, but the lasting effect that they’ve had on people.