Hootenanny is the place where the Replacements began to branch out from the breakneck punk that characterized their first two records -- which isn't quite the same thing as growing up, however. The brilliant thing about Hootenanny is that it teeters at the brink of maturity but never makes the dive into that deep pool. Paul Westerberg nevertheless dips a toe into those murky waters with "Color Me Impressed," as good an angst-ridden rocker as he would ever write, and the heartbroken "Within Your Reach," which presented a break from the Replacements' past in its slower tempo, driven by a stiff yet sad drum loop, and its vulnerability. Not long after this, Westerberg's vulnerability would become central to the 'Mats, although here he's keeping it way in check, but Hootenanny has something better to offer than a collection of soul-searching ballads: it offers the manic, reckless spirit so key to the Replacements' legend. All the myths of the Replacements at their peak speak to how it seemed like anything could happen at one of their shows, how Bob Stinson could blow out his amplifiers, how Westerberg would stumble through impromptu kitsch covers, how it could seem like the band would never make it to the end of the show. Well, Hootenanny is the only record of theirs where it seems like they may not make it to the end of the album, so ragged and reckless it is. It lurches to life with the folk piss-take "Hootenanny" before spinning out of control with "Run It," a piece of faux-core harder and funnier than anything on Stink. Hootenanny continues to bounce from extreme to extreme, stopping for a Beatles parody on "Mr. Whirly" and the instrumental "Buck Hill" before Westerberg reads out personal ads on "Lovelines." Almost all of the album's 12 songs could be seen as slight on their own merits, but the whole is greater than its individual parts, not just in how it is a breathless good time, but how this album offers a messy break from American punk traditions, ushering in an era of irony and self-deprecation that came to define much of American underground rock in the next decade. Nowhere is the Replacements' influence clearer than on Hootenanny, and although they made better records, no other one captures what the band was all about better than this.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine