Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Replacements 3: Hootenanny

The Replacements were ever determined to wipe their noses in the direction of anyone who’d take them seriously. The cover graphics and liner notes on Hootenanny are a diversion tactic, demonstrated immediately by the shambolic title track, wherein the band members swap instruments.
From there it’s another see-saw ride between punk thrash and tuneful attempts at pop. “Run It” is about the joys of ignoring traffic signals, but “Color Me Impressed” is Paul Westerberg’s first great rock song, and “Willpower” demonstrates how they’d figured out dynamics in the studio (as demonstrated by “Go” on the Stink EP). And then there’s “Take Me Down To The Hospital”, a boogie shuffle with actual cries of pain. There’s a reference to blisters on fingers at the end, a good setup for the last song on the side. The credit for “Mr. Whirly” reads “mostly stolen”, and indeed, it begins with the intro of “Strawberry Fields Forever”, devotes a verse to “The Twist”, and finishes with an extemporaneous section devoted to the title sung to the tune of “Oh! Darling”.
Side two tries to cover more ground. Westerberg’s solo-with-drum-machine “Within Your Reach” was hailed at the time for its depth, but now it just sounds as dated as that drum machine. (And reminds one of the less wincey moments of Say Anything.) “Buck Hill” is a fairly competent instrumental, while “Lovelines” consists of Westerberg reading the personals, harmonized, over a cool groove. “You Lose” and “Hayday” straddle that see-saw, while the unamplified “Treatment Bound” comes closest to an actual hootenanny.
With just a little more polish, Hootenanny would be more than obnoxious, but they weren’t there yet. That’s why we can’t give it a passing grade. (The expanded CD gets points for adding “Lookin’ For Ya”, plus a fast remake of “Johnny’s Gonna Die” and a better rehearsed “Treatment Bound”.)

The Replacements Hootenanny (1983)—
2008 CD reissue: same as 1983, plus 7 extra tracks

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