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The Bottle Rockets: Lean Forward


The Bottle Rockets

Album: Lean Forward
Label: Bloodshot

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The St. Louis stalwarts in The Bottle Rockets have built up a mythology of the commonplace since 1992’s self-titled debut—a disc that saw the group lumped in with the burgeoning alt-country movement spearheaded by their friends in Uncle Tupelo. Seventeen years on, The Bottle Rockets feel oddly timeless and out of date: Lean Forward, their latest waving of the roots-rock flag, is just as gloriously tattered and lavishly ordinary as its predecessors. On rousing, ringing tracks like the opener “The Long Way” and “The Way It Used To Be,” singer-guitarist Brian Henneman puts more notches in his NRBQ-esque belt, and the twangy ballad “Solitaire” bears a warm Delaney & Bonnie afterburn. But in the wake of roots-rock pugilists like The Hold Steady and The Gaslight Anthem, Henneman’s bluntly drawled, spoken-sung poetry feels tired, and forays into arthritic funk like “Hard Times” certainly don’t help. (The song’s line “I ain’t broke down, I’m just out of gas” feels even truer than it may have been intended.) Still, there’s no doubt The Bottle Rockets will continue to have the last laugh as trends and irony roll off their backs. Ultimately, Lean Forward is just another Bottle Rockets bar-rock album—but the bartender slings some stiff drinks and keeps a pretty decent jukebox in the corner.