Bottle Rockets reissue displays Brian Henneman’s observational eye



By Steve Newton

Nineteen-ninety-four might not have been the greatest year for fans of rootsy, meat ‘n’ potatoes guitar-rock. Hootie and the Blowfish released their diamond-selling (10-million copies plus) Cracked Rear View album. The Barenaked Ladies were going platinum.

And Yanni unleashed Live at the Acropolis.

But if you were lucky enough back then to catch the latest sounds from a relatively unknown band from St. Louis called the Bottle Rockets, man were you in for a treat.

My introduction to the band came via its ’94 album, The Brooklyn Side, which totally blew me away with hook-filled rockers like “Gravity Fails” and “I’ll Be Coming Around”, and the gorgeous ballad “Pot of Gold”. One track, “Radar Gun”, actually scored a little airplay on North American rock stations. Maybe you remember it.

The Brooklyn Side also showed singer and main songwriter Brian Henneman’s keen observational eye and sense of humour on songs like “Sunday Sports” and “1000 Dollar Car”.

“A thousand dollar car’s gonna let you down, more than it’s ever gonna get you around,” Henneman croons. “Replace your gaskets and paint over your rust, you still end up with something that you’ll never trust.”

Amen, brother.

The Brooklyn Side was just loaded with awesome tunes. It reminded me a lot of that first Georgia Satellites album from ’86, the one everybody knew for “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” but which actually boasted way better tunes than that, “Battleship Chains” being one of several.

But enough reminiscing about the 20th century’s best music. The reason for this blog is to let everybody who missed the Bottle Rockets the first time around know that, just today, Bloodshot Records released a two-disc set that includes The Brooklyn Side as well as the band’s self-titled 1993 album, plus a bevy of outtakes and previously unheard live tracks.

The rarities include an acoustic demo version of “I’ll be Coming Around”, then known as “What Happens if You’re a Songwriter and You’re Listening to Lindsey Buckingham on the Radio While You’re Thinking of Your Friend’s Girlfriend at the Same Time.”

The liner notes in the Bottle Rockets’ 40-page booklet include raves about the band from the likes of Steve Earle, Patterson Hood, Marshall Crenshaw, and Jason Ringenberg from Jason and the Scorchers.

“The Brooklyn Side is one of my favorite records from the ’90s,” says Ringenberg. “Every song is brilliantly written, and there is not a weak moment on the record. I know I have listened to ‘I’ll Be Comin’ Around’ over 200 times, but every song has its place and time.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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