The Brooklyn Side

The Bottle Rockets

Tag / Atlantic Records, 1995

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Sometimes, greatness lies at your feet, waiting to be discovered. In the case of the fledgling rock group Attic Of Love (whom I reviewed two months ago), it was a matter of about one day from the time I received their disc to the time I slapped it into the CD player.

Other times, it takes many months before I finally get around to listening to it; there are records in the Pierce Memorial Archives (moving day nine days away) that have been there for over three years that I still haven't had the time to listen to. For the country-rock group The Bottle Rockets, I think it took me eight months to just rip the shrinkwrap off their major label debut The Brooklyn Side, and another month before I listened to it.

Once I finished the disc, I turned off the stereo, bent over, and gave myself a hard kick in the ass. Not only had I criminally ignored what could have been the best disc of 1995 (originally recorded the year before), but I had totally underestimated the potential of this band.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Led by the vocals of Brian Henneman, the Bottle Rockets are a slightly more raucous and less free-form Allman Brothers. The acoustic opener "Welfare Music" lets you know this band has not forgotten its roots: the subtle country of the working class man and woman. It's actually quite touching.

But just when you think this is going to be a dobro-based album, the gloves come off, and the amplifiers are turned on. "Gravity Fails" is a solid rocker that displays a whole new side to this band... and I like it, I like it! The single "Radar Gun" shows the humor of this band, though I doubt you've heard it - like me for the first eight months, most radio stations have ignored this disc for the likes of Pearl Jam. (I do hear it occasionally in WIIL-FM out of Kenosha, Wisconsin - it almost restores my faith in rock radio.)

The combination of humor and attention to the working man is further reflected in songs like "Sunday Sports" and "1000 Dollar Car" (great tag line: "A thousand dollar car, it ain't worth nothin' / A thousand dollar car, it ain't worth shit"). Even the all-out country-blooze of "Idiot's Revenge" shows the funny side of this band.

But don't think that The Bottle Rockets are Monty Python from down South - far from it. (Truth be told, the band is from Missouri.) Henneman and his fellow bandmates (guitarist Tom Parr, bassist Tom Ray and drummer Mark Ortmann) show they are a band who want to be taken seriously. On cuts like "Gravity Fails" and "I'll Be Comin' Around" they hit the target damned near the bull's-eye, while on others like "I Wanna Come Home" and "Young Lovers In Town" they stray from the target.

The production of Eric Ambel - who also joins in on several of the songs - is perfectly suited to this band's style. Tight musically, free emotionally - kind of a refreshing change of pace, don't you think?

The Brooklyn Side is an album that did not deserved to be ignored - not by myself, not by radio, not by the record-buying public. Fortunately, it's not too late. Grab this one with both hands out of the bins at Target and let this one melt your mind. I know I'll be keeping an eye out for The Bottle Rockets the nezt time they come through the Chicago area.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Tag / Atlantic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.