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The Bottle Rockets
Brand New Year

Review By Steven Stone
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The Bottle Rockets Brand New Year   The Bottle Rockets Leftovers

CD Number: New West Records NW6019 / 6017 


  If you didn't know better, you'd swear after hearing the first few bars of the opening song on Brand New Year, "Nancy Sinatra," that you were listening to a newly unearthed early recording from ZZ Top. The Bottle Rockets have an uncanny ability to create the kind of raunchy electric guitar wall of crunch that conjures up images of rockin' dudes with long beards. But on subsequent cuts on their latest CD, the Bottle Rockets reveal the true depth and breadth of their talent.

The sound of multiple layers of fully cranked-up electric guitars has a primal effect on the human psyche. The Bottle Rockets tap into this primitive power. Whether the songs are about cultural icons, such as "Nancy Sinatra," or the evils of the modern world with "Helpless," or the importance of saving the beer during times of stress in "The Bar's on Fire," they have a raw rock and roll energy that can't be denied. Chief Bottle Rocket songwriter Brian Henneman brings a hypercritical sensibility to bear on all matter of subjects both sacred and profane. My favorite song on Brand New Year is a tribute to the archetypical vintage electric guitar owner entitled "White Boy Blues." The lyrics go something like this:

"Got the best tweed Bassman that you ever saw.
He's a down-home low-down attorney at law. 
He knows his licks, so don't you laugh. 
His beat-to-shit strat cost ten grand and a half.

Have you heard the news he's got the White Boy Blues
Bought himself a guitar that paid its dues.
Jam a little when he gets off from work tonight
Singing hey, hey, the blues is alright.

Now the boys from the office, they're really impressed.
When he straps that strat up across his chest.
Stevie Ray videos parts one and two
Studied them both, he knows what to do.

Member of the local blues society
Tryin' to work his way up to a 12 gauge E.

His wife's so proud of how he made it sing.
He drank too much, but that's a bluesy thing.
Wipes down his strings and what's left of the chrome.
Throws it in his turbo Volvo and he heads for home."



Despite their raw power and big-boned strength, the songs on Brand New Year represent highly polished studio efforts. If you wish to hear what the Bottle Rockets sound like when they relax, their new Leftovers CD will fill the bill. Populated by more acoustic guitars, and even an occasional mandolin and fiddle, they let their hair let down so you can see their acoustic and old time country roots. At only slightly more than 31 minutes and only 8 songs, Leftovers is short but sweet. The opening cut "Get Down River" feels like an old traditional number rather than a Henneman original. Its waltz rhythm coupled with lyrics lamenting the annual spring flood conjures up images of old broken levees and tenement shacks. My favorite song on the album, "My Own Cadillac," features Brian Henneman playing a "drunk firebird." It sort of lurches along rhythmically, with a surly edge that feels as if Hank William's ghost were hovering over the drum kit.

If you like your music nice and neat, the Bottle Rockets probably won't float your boat. But if you can cotton to music that lets its rough side show, the Bottle Rockets should be on your short list of new bands worth paying attention to.




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