If one sometimes longs for some critical analysis of the records, there is a sense that Trouble Boys almost doesn’t need it: the love all the interviewees have for Westerberg’s music and the band’s playing is enough to prove their worth.
The often dispiriting details behind the band’s notoriety and demise are laid out masterfully by Bob Mehr in Trouble Boys ... What elevates the book beyond titillation is the explanatory context Mehr provides for all this terrible behavior. Each member of the band was troubled in his own particular way ... He doesn’t present an argument for why the Replacements mattered—or why they might still matter. He likely figured that anyone already into the band enough to read a book about it wouldn’t require a case for significance. And he’s probably right.
The previous books and films have all postulated on the why of it all but Mehr digs deeper, thanks to a decade’s worth of exclusive interviews with the musicians, their families, their friends, their lovers, and seemingly every person who ever worked with them — or sat down to drink a case or 10 of beer with them — and the end result isn’t just a historical document about a band that should have been called the What Could Have Beens, but also an essential look into the machinery of artistry, and the foibles of trying to make music into business ... Trouble Boys is the true story of a great American failure; of a band that should have been huge — they probably could be huge right now, really — except for that small problem that real people, with real problems, were never able to get out of their own damn way.