T.J. Simon's #9 album for 2003
First Appeared at The Music Box, January 2004, Volume 11, #1
Written by T.J. Simon
Itís been four years since the last release of original material from Missouriís Bottle Rockets. This unusual hiatus was due to a key band member defection, record label homelessness, and a general dearth of new songs. Bandleader Brian Henneman understandably suffered a bout of writerís block after the back-to-back deaths of his parents, and only recently was able to return to penning lyrics and music. A lesser ensemble wouldnít have recovered from the wheels flying off the roots-rock joyride that the Bottle Rockets have experienced since 1993, and given that, itís amazing that the new release Blue Sky is such a pleasure to hear.
Unquestionably, this is the most countrified album that Bottle Rockets has released to date. Man of Constant Anxiety is a modern take on the signature song from the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, and the bandís lyrics remain in top form ó most notably on Baggage Claim, an interesting commentary on our post-9/11 world where lovers can no longer greet each other at the airport gates. Hennemanís humor comes through loud and clear on Lucky Break in which he portrays a happy-as-a-clam working stiff who gets an extended stay at home due to an injury covered by workersí compensation.
The bandís bassist Robert Kerns handles vocals on two of the songs with mixed results. I Donít Wanna Go Back is a very good power pop number that sounds more like Fountains of Wayne than a Bottle Rockets track. As such, it sticks out like a sore thumb on this country-rock effort. Kerns also closes the album with the lackluster Last Time, a tune best left on the cutting room floor. Nevertheless, thereís plenty to be happy about on the CD including the relentlessly jolly title track and the hilarious battle of the sexes romp Men and Women. Ultimately, Blue Sky is an imperfect album with a lot to relish. Mostly, itís just good to hear that the guys are back and making music.
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box