When the Bottle Rockets’ second album, The Brooklyn Side (TAG/Atlantic), came out early this year, the band from Festus, Missouri, started a wave of terrific records by country-dabbling rock bands like Wilco, Son Volt, and the late Jayhawks. Many young rockers have adopted the same rural lyricism, earnestness, and twang, but no band has pulled them off as naturally as the Bottle Rockets. Sure, others have made records that were more solid, but when Brian Henneman and company play the best songs of their latest album–“Gravity Fails,” “Welfare Music,” and “1000 Dollar Car” to name a few–they may be the world’s greatest rock band. Their appeal lies not just in the gut-rumbling Crazy Horse-like grooves of something like “Sunday Sports” or the fat ZZ Top-ish boogie of “Radar Gun” but also in the conviction with which Henneman tells the tales of small-town losers who never had a chance. He doesn’t pity them and he doesn’t pick on them; he merely cuts to the essence of their tragically ordinary and inescapable situations. Some deride his lyrics as too literal, but I can’t think of a way his plainspeak could be more potent. Of course, a New Year’s Eve gig at a nice north-side bar is something most of the subjects in his songs couldn’t afford, but if you want to get liquored up to some shit-kickin’ sounds (and can part with the scratch), this is the place. Next Sunday, December 31, 9:30 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 525-2508.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Brad Miller.