Bottle Rockets/The Brooklyn Side
Before Drive-By Truckers, there was Missouri's Bottle Rockets. Unlike the more-literary Truckers, who chronicle the underclass from the outside with the keen eye of a short-story writer, Brian Henneman and crew seem to inhabit their equally downtrodden characters, creating uproarious drama that rocks with a vengeance. This two-disc, bonus track-laden reissue of their first two albums, from 1993 and 1994, feels utterly familiar, yet entirely fresh, suggesting everything from ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd to John Prine to Chuck Berry and the Clash, sometimes all within a single song.
The tunes are uniformly fine, capturing vivid images of lives under stress with rowdy verve. Among the best are "Gas Girl," confessing a crush on the clerk at the filling station, the cautionary tale of a "1,000 Dollar Car" that "ain't worth shit," and "Sunday Sports," about obsessive fans—with Henneman's rueful, good-humored vocals adding zing. The 19 bonus tracks are well worth a listen, including six 1989 performances from Chicken Truck, the band that spawned the Rockets. While we’re awaiting new music from the boys, here's hoping 1999's Brand New Year, possibly their best album, gets a similar treatment.