There is no feeling quite as delicious as angst, as every teenager knows. And angst needs a soundtrack. A decade-and-a-half ago, in my days of disaffection and torn jeans, mine would have seemed complete with all of one song: “Unsatisfied” by The Replacements.
“Unsatisfied” was part of the album Let It Be, a classic of alternative rock studded with little beauties. Without Bob Stinson’s gorgeous guitar, and Paul Westerberg’s powerful vocals, the lyrics almost seem banal: “Look me in the eyes and tell me/ that I’m satisfied/ I’m so/ I’m so/ Unsatisfied.” Anwhere else, it would have seemed precious and full of self pity, but Westerberg sung it not as a cry of help but an assertion of self, a statement of how things just happen to be.
If you’ve ever been confused about the world and your place in it, struggling to form a sense of identity, desperately insecure or lonely, the rest of the album will also speak to you. “Sixteen Blue” is about, well, being sixteen. (“Your age is the hardest age/ Everything drags and drags.”) And can anything sum up the ache of unrequited love better than the line from “Answering Machine”: “How do you say good night to an answering machine?”
Twenty-three years after it was first released, maybe sixteen years after I first heard it, Let It Be still sounds fresh, and “Unsatisfied” still sends a chill up my spine.