Each year in country and Americana new acts emerge that take the public by storm. It’s always exciting to see. But it’s important too to not forget the acts that have built the foundation of the genres and are still rocking after all these years. This is just exciting too. The Bottle Rockets certainly fall into the latter, as this band was formed back in 1992. Founding members still in the group are lead vocalist/guitarist Brian Henneman and drummer Mark Ortmann. The other two members of the group currently are John Horton (guitarist, joined in 2003) and Keith Voegele (bass/vocals, joined in 2005). Just last week via Bloodshot Records they released their 12th album, South Broadway Athletic Club. It’s safe to say this band still has “it,” as this is an album full of great Americana/alt-country.
South Broadway Athletic Club opens up with “Monday,” which is kind of appropriate. The song is about how it feels like it’s always Monday and how the rest of the week goes by so fast compared to that day. I can imagine this is how many of you reading this feel. Kudos to The Bottle Rockets for delivering a relatable theme that the everyday, average person can connect with. Rocking guitar licks play in “Big Lotsa Love.” It’s your standard love song that features some great instrumentation. “I Don’t Wanna Know” is about a man who wonders what his woman does when she isn’t around, but then realizes maybe he doesn’t want to know. Despite all of the rumors he is hearing about her, he just wants to remain blissfully ignorant. Once again I enjoy the guitar play too.
One of the most fun songs on the album is “Big Fat Nuthin’,” a short song about doing nothing. No, that isn’t a slam on the song. That’s what the song is about. It’s about lying around and doing nothing because sometimes that’s just what you need to do. I always like these simple, fun songs that are easy to relate to and I imagine many listeners will enjoy this one. The Bottle Rockets keep it simple again with “Dog.” As you can tell from the title, it’s about dogs. Well particularly it’s about a man’s dog and how much he loves him and how you don’t have to love him too because it’s his dog. For dog lovers, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one. Safe to say this is the most bizarre song on the album to me. But it works somehow. “Something Good” is about a man reflecting back on breaking up with his woman and how they had something good going until she ruined it. It’s a solid heartbreak song that I come to like more with each listen.
The song that stands out the most on South Broadway Athletic Club is “Building Chryslers.” It’s about an assembly line worker in a plant who spends his workdays building Chryslers and doesn’t care how they turn out, as he’s worried more about his bills. He also knows his fellow line workers don’t care either, so that’s why he drives a Toyota. Injecting that little bit of humor into a great song about the workingman is a nice touch. Throw in fantastic guitar play and you’ve got yourself one hell of a song.
The Bottle Rockets go acoustic on “Smile.” It’s definitely the happiest song on the album, as they sing about a man enjoying the smile of the woman he loves. The world is a tough place and her smile brings joy to him. The weakest song on the album is “XOYOU.” The instrumentation is top-notch, but it’s the second consecutive love song on the album and the lyrics get a little too corny for my taste. It’s not a bad song, but this is a song that could have easily been left on the cutting room floor. “Ship It On The Frisco” is played in by some earthy guitar licks that sets the tone of the song well. The instrumentation throughout this song and album is really well done and the band should be proud of the sound they create. The album ends with “Shape Of A Wheel,” a life song about going through all kinds of ups and downs. As Henneman sings, he may be many shapes at times, but he’s always a wheel no matter what shape he’s in and will keep rolling forward. Basically, it’s a song about continuing to persevere forward and not giving up. But it isn’t corny and feels relatable. It ties up this entire album nicely.
The Bottle Rockets deliver an album full of variety with South Broadway Athletic Club. The instrumentation is engaging, fun and diverse. It’s something that fans of country, rock and Americana can all enjoy. Most importantly the songs are kept simple in their theme and are easily connectable with listeners. Too many times artists will not put enough into a simple-themed song and will hence feel empty to the listener. But The Bottle Rockets make each of their songs feel full and you don’t have to listen to them several times over to understand them. South Broadway Athletic Club is definitely recommended listening.
Photo Courtesy: Bloodshot Records