Ranking The Replacements' albums, #4 Hootenanny

Hootenanny. In E.  

What a messy track to start off an album with, but it summed up the band in less than two minutes.  A shambolic anthem if there ever was, and yet it did not define the album.  At times brilliant, other times, maddening, the band seemingly tempered their potential by tossing out a two-ton anchor of defiance.  And then sprang to life when the levity careened out of control.  But that's why we love The Replacements, yes, that's why.       

Looking back at the Replacements second full length effort, I'm struck by how all over the map the record is -- equal parts punk, alt-country, college rock, and power pop.  And that's what makes it so special, but also hurts it the most.  With Hootenanny, the band moved away from the rapid-fire pace of the punk scene, but they never strayed too far away from the punk ethos.  Musically, the move was liberating, despite the sloppy first track in which the band swapped instruments, the production was tighter, and Paul's tortured soul peeked out of the cellar.  However, bouncing from sound to sound, feeling to feeling, make it an uneven affair, yet it laid the framework for the next three albums, and Paul's solo work.        

At this point in their career, still a regional band, not many outside of Minneapolis had heard of the band.  But it wasn't to last, Color Me Impressed lit up college rock radio, and introduced the rest of the country to the band.  Hearing it now, 30 years later, while listening to the album, it sounds terribly out of place.  As does the heartbreakingly gorgeous track, Within Your Reach.  If not for Cameron Crowe exposing the band to the world by using the track in his brilliant film, Say Anything, many would not have heard of the band.

While those two songs are standouts, and foreshadow the band's future, other songs show a band growing into their own skins and becoming accomplished musicians.  For one, the criminally underrated Willpower, with its layered moodiness, almost stole the album from the college rock radio favorite, Color Me Impressed.  Then, the penultimate track, Hayday, helped shaped a sound that was still a few years down the road.  The band ended the album with the lo-fi Stonesy track, Treatment Bound, surely the inspiration for Paul's later lo-fi solo work.  

The band couldn't completely shake their "fuck all" attitude after the first track, jokey songs come off as thin filler these days -- Mr. Whirly, You Lose, and Run It.  But, it was a good step forward, their groundbreaking work, Let it Be came next. 

Key Tracks:

Color Me Impressed, Within Your Reach, Willpower, Lovelines, Hayday

Track Listing:

Hootenanny

Run It

Color Me Impressed

Willpower

Take Me to the Hospital

Mr. Whirly

Within Your Reach

Buck Hill

Lovelines

You Lose

Hayday

Treatment Bound

With just three albums left to rank, where will they end up?  Can Let it Be be the best? Or can Tim muscle in?  Pleased to Meet Me isn't giving in so easily though.  Maybe I can get the next installment written a bit quicker than the last.  Maybe.