The Bottle Rockets 

Lean Forward

Maybe the reason the Bottle Rockets haven't achieved greater renown during their sixteen-year career is that they've been identified with the alt-country scene, which doesn't seem to be marketable in the usual sense. But Missouri's Bottle Rockets aren't really a roots-rock band in the manner of Son Volt or Whiskeytown. There's some twang in the Rockets' approach, but little in the way of country or even country-rock influence. There's much more of the rough-and-tumble, blues-rock-inspired snarl of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bad Company.

The band's 10th album, Lean Forward, is a fine distillation and summation of the band's strengths — songs are unadorned slices of middle-American life; terse, lean, and memorable melodies, plenty of snappish crunch in the guitar sound; and singing rich with a lazy drawl that seems to recall a million past keg parties. The jaunty "Done It All" captures that harrowing feeling of a life that's going in circles while adulthood laboriously sets in. "Nothin' but a Driver" conveys zeal for automotive-oriented employment with a shambling Bo Diddley-style shuffling rhythm and wry dissonances evoking the squeal of tires on pavement and the rush of Vivarin. There are wee country and folk undertones on the wry "Get on the Bus," evoking Little Feat and the Pogues in their primes, and "Slip Away" carries echoes of late-1960s/early-1970s sweet soul/R&B, but the Bottle Rockets are really a successor to the Replacements. Lean Forward is fine, earthy, timeless American rock 'n' roll. (Bloodshot)

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