After an album and an EP of energetic punk, The Replacements pushed out their boundaries on Hootenanny. The result is a record that’s unfocused and wildly inconsistent, despite some moments that indicate Paul Westerberg’s burgeoning writing talent and emotional punch that would come into full force in the next album. The liner notes define a Hootenanny as having immediacy, variety and incredible excitement – the variety of this record is certainly unquestionable, spanning snotty punk, power pop, acoustic rave ups, a Beatles pastiche, and a recitation of a personal ads column. But while the record’s fast paced and eclectic, it’s also superficial – it doesn’t hold up to repeated listens and a lot of the songs are far too simplistic to be interesting.
For all the problems the eclecticism of the material creates, the one fantastic song here is the one that deviates furthest from any other Replacements track; on ‘Within Your Reach’, Westerberg is only accompanied by a primitive drum machine and synthesizer, adding guitar to bulk up the chorus, and the result is an aching tale of unrequited love that makes the rest of the record look one-dimensional in comparison. The other real keeper here is the power-pop of ‘Color Me Impressed’, while the classified ads reading of ‘Lovelines’ and Beatles rip off ‘Mr Whirly’ are amusing enough to work. The band all swap instruments for the title track, and it’s predictably messy with busy bass lines from Bob, sloppy drumming from Paul, and not particularly interesting guitars from the other two. Elsewhere, the surf instrumental ‘Buck Hill’ and the not-as-hypnotic-as-it-wants-to-be ‘Willpower’ are two particular lows.
Hootenanny is at least fun, and the record’s fast enough moving and personable enough to be more than the sum of its parts, but for a group on the cusp of what’s possibly the best three album sequence made by anyone, it’s disappointingly disposable.