The Bottle Rockets

The Brooklyn Side (Atlantic ‘95) Rating: A-
An unjustly overlooked band, The Bottle Rockets should greatly appeal to fans of Uncle Tupelo and early Wilco (not to mention Lynyrd Skynyrd and Neil Young). In fact, leader Brian Henneman was a former roadie for Uncle Tupelo who also played guitar on Uncle Tupelo (March 16-20, 1992) and Wilco (A.M.) albums. As such, it’s not surprising that a country twang appears on some of these songs, though hard rock riffs or Chuck Berry inspired licks are just as likely to lead the way. Henneman is an incisive songwriter with a gritty drawl of a voice, and the group’s sturdy playing duly impresses. Yet for all the versatile (if occasionally generic) musical talent on display, it’s on the band's lyrics that The Bottle Rockets really knock the ball out of the park. Whether extolling the virtues of “Sunday Sports” and rock n’ roll (“Take Me To The Bank”), deadpanning the worthlessness of a “1,000 Dollar Car,” or lamenting being “Stuck In A Rut,” Henneman’s everyman lyrics are alternately moving and amusing, and his small town tales are well worth hearing. For example, the album begins “used to be daddy’s little girl, now she needs help in this mean old world,” before going on to ask, “will she ever stand a chance?” On a lighter note, the catchy “I’ll Be Coming Around” features the following colorful come on: “if you just wanna be vile if he steps out for awhile...,” while "Idiot’s Revenge” takes a deserved poke at the mid-‘90s alternative rock scene: “well she likes Dinosaur Jr., but she can’t tell you why, says you like country music, man you deserve to die.” Other songs examine relationships (“everything that I do, since I walked out on you, just leaves me blue”), some of which are even going well, and there’s many changes of pace to keep things from ever getting stale or overly serious. Produced with minimal fuss by Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, The Brooklyn Side isn't especially original, but The Bottle Rockets are a big time bar band well versed in all aspects of Rock 101, and they pass most of these tests with flying colors. My favorite cuts on this consistent collection are "Welfare Music," "Gravity Falls," "I'll Be Comin' Around," "Sunday Sports," "Pot Of Gold," "1000 Dollar Car," "I Wanna Come Home," and "Queen Of The World," but ask me on a different day and some of the other songs could sneak in there as well.

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