Bob "Slim" Dunlap's good-humored grace did much to win over die-hard Replacements fans embittered by the forced exit of his predecessor, the late Bob Stinson. These qualities are obvious on Dunlap's solo debut, which downplays the urge to convert for a relaxed approach: the hooks are obvious, but never hammered into the ground. "Rockin' Here Tonight" opens the album with a fine shower of jangly distortion, delivering just what its title promises. "Just for the Hell of It" is punchy, good-time bar band rock -- with nonsense rhymes to match -- while "Partners in Crime" comes off like late-'70s Rolling Stones, updated with a darker theme ("We're on a fast cruise headed for the bottom, but we're having one hell of a time"). "Taken on the Chin" is another highlight; a sparse backdrop of acoustic guitar, harmonica, and synthesizer details an unfortunate run-in Dunlap had with a street person , who hit the guitarist when he wouldn't cough up any money. (According to Dunlap, the incident happened in front of a cop, who advised, "Son, why don't you take it on the chin? Hence, the title.)
"Ain't Exactly Good" offers a sardonic country-rock jab at the aspiring overnight sensation ("Well, you ain't half bad, but you ain't exactly good"). "The Ballad of the Opening Band" became the album's most enduring signature, drawing its inspiration from the Replacements' nightmare of bombing as a support act on Tom Petty's 1989 tour. A deceptively breezy guitar and harmonica invoke a larger theme of missed opportunities that anybody will understand, whether they play music or not ("You were gonna be a singer for the hit parade/Instead you're just the singer warming up the stage"). The album ends on a gracefully elegiac note with a guitar instrumental, "Love Lost." Dunlap once called songwriting his "secret radio station"; on this form, The Old New Me makes for a rootsy, engaging ride.