music review: The Bottletones – Alone & Rollin’

(I haven’t written any music reviews in quite a while, but I did pick up a few albums a few months ago – I guess I’ve soaked them in enough to give what I hope is a fair review each.)

The Bottletones are a rockabilly band from southern Illinois. Hopefully I don’t have to explain what rockabilly is to anyone out there who is only a fan of what I usually listen to, which is crazy death metal and punk rock. I think we have enough bandwidth available to look things up and see that there’s more to the genre than your parents’ Stray Cats album. (Heck, I had never heard of Reverend Horton Heat aside from a few of my metalhead friends mentioning his awesomeness but never playing his music. I picked up one of his semi-recent albums and a best of and dug it for t he most part.)

I used to edit a rock zine in Chicago and we’d get a lot of local bands sending their demos, to the point where we released a couple of compilation CDs of bands we liked over our few years of existence. We were in the process of making a 3rd comp and the well was running dry: lots of “blues hammer” type nonsense was making it to our door, and very little local hard rock or metal or punk that we wanted to showcase. Then we got this album “Adult Time” in the mail, I believe labelled FOR consideration for the compilation, we were immediately blown away by the title track: Explosions!

YEAH. The whole album was like this and ends perfectly with “[Since She Said] I Do” and we questioned where these guys were our whole lives. They also weren’t answering our emails about the comp, but it fizzled out anyway. I didn’t see many mentions of their making their way up on tour or any local shows for the next few years, so who knows. I did find The Sheriff Of Bottletone County later, and it was pretty good, but I never found out more about them. Maybe a member put up a track or two on myspace, who knows, but like the Stray Cats I don’t have time to tell you kids what Myspace was (Facebook without Russian bot advertising?).

So in the last year or so it looks like the band has been active in some ways or another – ‘reunion’ gigs around Carbondale, then their catalog available on the Spotifies n whatnot (including an album called Corn Rampin’ that I had never heard of that seems to predate Sheriff, but I haven’t listened to much) and then, suddenly…a new album!

It takes a few songs, literally, before the album goes from ‘what you’d expect if you heard some of the music before,’ to home run after home run through most of the album’s run, starting with “Cold” (which lyrically seems like a continuation of the sad devastating romantic tales in “i Do”) through “Let’s Ride.” There’s a few caterwaulin’ sour notes here & there but it comes off as part of the implied mood of the themes of these songs as opposed to mistakes or bad recording. What makes up are some catchy choruses and such great songwriting that I gotta wonder why none of these guys are in Hollywood selling some of these throwback tunes for animated musicals and then flying off to parts unknown while Tom Cruise sings and dances with a CGI penguin (this is not a screenplay I have written) (yet). Standouts include “Alone & Rollin,” “The Wolf,” and “I Got A Sense.”

Any of us should be so lucky to make an album so fun but the last 1/4th of the album doesn’t hold up like the preceding gooey middle that I, personally, find myself skipping past after “Hammerhead.” Too much of a good thing, or maybe switch the tracks around, I don’t know. For the most part, 7 or 8 great songs vs 2 or 3 meh ones on a 15 song album is a win, so good jorb, Bottletones. I am likely sure I bought my copy on CD Baby so go there, but it’s streamable on Spotify and other services. Highly recommended.

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