Release Date: Oct 2, 2015
Record label: Bloodshot
More than two decades on from the Bottle Rockets' debut album, Brian Henneman is still the best and most articulate working stiff in rock & roll, a songwriter who can speak for the regular guy who punches a time clock with greater honesty and understanding than practically anyone who professes to be The Voice Of The People. (Bruce Springsteen certainly means well, but when was the last time he actually had to think about coming up with the rent money?) The Bottle Rockets' tenth studio album, 2015's South Broadway Athletic Club, not only attests that Henneman's lyrical voice rings as true as ever, it's an excellent example of Grown Up Rock & Roll, unforced but passionate country-influenced rock that both musically and lyrically speaks of a richly lived life and the challenges of making one's way in a world filled with both victories and defeats. The Bottle Rockets understand a world where Monday's shadow always seems to be lurking around the corner, sloth is sometimes not born of laziness but the reward at the end of a punishing week, love is hard work whether it goes good or bad, and sometimes surviving to another day is the most you can ask out of life.
When they appeared in the early '90s, the Bottle Rockets quickly joined the forefront of the burgeoning Americana scene alongside such peers as Uncle Tupelo and Whiskeytown. In fact, Uncle Tupelo's Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar sang backups on 1993's eponymous Bottle Rockets debut.Under the steady hand of singer/guitarist/main man Brian Henneman, they've continued to put out highly entertaining roots-rock albums (their discography is now in double figures). Lyrically and musically, they've never aimed as high as peers like Wilco or the Drive-By Truckers, but Henneman's blue-collar odes have always contained real wit and intelligence under the seemingly simplistic surface.New album South Broadway Athletic Club is no exception.
Still crowd-rousing, two decades on. St Louis alt. rockers the Bottle Rockets have been championing the blue-collar cause for over two decades and show no signs of losing their zest. Indeed, South Broadway Athletic Club, their first album of new material in five years, has a revivalist feel ….
The Bottle Rockets are approaching silver anniversary status, with a discography that now reaches 11 albums and all the way back to the early 1990s, but they don’t seem to have mellowed much. These are country songs drunk on punk rock rebellion, twanging and punching with nothing but experience to show for a lifetime of practice. Not that you can’t sense the presence of lifers in the taut, offhandedly excellent playing, which shifts from head-butting aggression to blues-y ruefulness.
For two decades, the Bottle Rockets have been the best rock band no one has heard. The St. Louis group, still led by bard Brian Henneman, has flown under the radar while chronicling the struggles and joys of blue-collar America. This 11th album is slighter than the group’s finest records yet there are enough emotionally true narratives here brimming with soul and bruised wisdom.