Even this early in their career The Replacements seemed determined to represent the everyman and be utterly relatable to their audience, who by and large were kids from the suburbs just like they had been just a few short years before. While The Replacements’ 1981 debut, the gloriously sloppy Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash, was the sound of a barely coherent quartet running through a setlist of only slightly more coherent songs, they quickly put distance between themselves and the burgeoning American punk scene. If Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash was the sound of a four peace blue collar rock act performing in the storage cupboard down the corridor from the recording studio, then 1983’s Hootenanny found that same band out of the cupboard and now playing in the corridor. While there was a slight step up in production and musical competence, there was still a thrilling ameteurishness about it all. In particular songs like “Color Me Impressed”, “Willpower” and “Within Your Reach” show a distinct increase in sophistication, even if more than half of the album’s dozen tracks retained a Ramones-like brevity.
One of the things that stands out on Hootenanny, is The Replacements’ sheer cheekiness. Few would have the guts to retool the start of “Strawberry Fields Forever” as a barely in tune guitar intro to their own number, in this case “Mr Whirly”, yet here they are, copying from the grand masters of the past, yet still somehow playing tribute by performing it so badly, that they are fully acknowledging how far away they are from The Beatles in regards of cultural significance.
Hootenanny is the sound of The Replacements slowly realising that this music malarky might possibly turn in to something vaguely resembling a career if they just took it slightly more seriously. Sure, it’s still sloppy sounding, but it’s still a massive leap forward from their debut, and promised similarly huge leaps to come.
Or at least it does until the final track, “Treatment Bound”, which goes even more lo-fi than the rest of the album, and sounds like they had tired of the corridor and decided to record their last number in a steel filing cabinet.
Kids. You can’t do anything with ’em…