Brian Henneman played with Uncle Tupelo before he
started recording with his own band, the Bottle Rockets, an eccentric bunch
from Missouri who fuse the rowdiness of
saloons with the open-space pride of the prairies.
Bottle Rockets (East Side Digital, 1993) is an entertaining, if not
amusing, carousel of dirty boogie (Every Kinda Everything),
lamenting country & western (Trailer Mama),
and psychedelic guitar distortions.
It may not be a coincidence that pathos peaks with Kerosene, that
sounds like Neil Young.
The Brooklyn Side (East Side Digital, 1994 - Atlantic, 1995)
is just a tad more compromised with mainstream rock
(especially in the unusually melodic I'll Be Coming Around) but
still rests firmly on noisier ground
(1000 Dollar Car, Sunday Sports).
On 24 Hours A Day (Atlantic, 1997) the two souls of the band coexist
peacefully: 24 Hours A Day is a raw boogie, whereas
Things You Didn't Know is another Neil Young-ian lament.
When I Was Dumb, Indianapolis and Smokin' 100's Alone
reiterate Henneman's stories of rebellion and loneliness for a much broader
Leftovers (Doolittle, 1998) collects songs that should have been
their next album. The same schizophrenia divides them into
country-rock ballads (Get Down River, Skip's Song, Chattanooga)
and saloon rockers (Romance, If Walls Could Talk).
Again, the most mournful track may be the most memorable:
My Own Cadillac.
Brand New Year (Doolittle, 1999) is the weakest album of the band.
Nancy Sinatra is a funny boogie and
Let Me Know is a pensive ballad, but on both fronts the band sounds
distracted and uninspired.
Songs Of Sahm (Bloodshot, 2002) is a tribute to Doug Sahm.
The Bottle Rockets proved a talented gang of eccentrics, the most sincere
photographers of the American province (both in the lyrics and in the sounds),
but managed to excel at the most heartfelt blue-collar stories.
Blue Sky (Sanctuary, 2003) is a collection of filler with one good song,
the catchy honky-tonking Lucky Break.
Zoysia (Bloodshot, 2006) and
Lean Forward (Bloodshot, 2009)
were dignified populist collections whose only drawback was that they
outlasted their welcome.
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