Bit Logic

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Die Bottle Rockets haben in den 30 Jahren seit ihrer Gründung ein populäres Sub-Genre geschaffen - Kleinstadt-Mittelstands-Roots-Rock aus dem amerikanischen Mittleren Westen. Zutaten: bodenständige Poesie und Rock'n'Roll, Resultat: Wahrheit. Bit Logic ist ein etwas anderes Album für die Band aus St. Louis, ihrer selbst bewusst, sozial bewusst, eine Herausforderung.

Das Album wurde in den Sawhorse Studios in St. Louis mit Toningenieur Mario Viele aufgenommen und produziert von Eric "Roscoe" Ambel (The Del-Lords, Steve Earle), dem langjährigen Kollaborateur der Band. Auf ihrem 13. Album gehen die Bottle Rockets ihre typische Stilmischung neu an. Noch immer sind Hymnen der Arbeiterklasse ein Markenzeichen der Band, aber auf Bit Logic legt das Quartett den Fokus nach außen, darauf, wie Wandel und Anpassung das Gesamtbild verändern.

"Wir hatten nicht vor, ein Thema für das Album zu finden, aber eines drängte sich auf", erklärt Songschreiber Brian Henneman. "Wenn es auf diesem Album um irgendetwas geht, dann wie es ist, in der Welt von heute zu leben. Depressionen und Wut zu vermeiden. Diese Songs sind Ausschnitte aus den Momenten, in denen das überwiegend gelingt." Aber, um den Zeiten, in denen das fast unmöglich erscheint, ein Gegengewicht zu geben, findet sich auf dem Album das Pop-Meisterwerk "Maybe Tomorrow", das einen optimistischen, heiteren Blick auf ein momentanes Versagen bietet.

Die Band kehrte zurück zu demokratischerem Songwriting, woraus vier gemeinsam verfasste Songs entstanden - im Unterschied zum vorhergehenden, überwiegend von Brian Henneman geschriebenen, hoch gelobten Album South Broadway Athletic Club. Bevor es ins Studio ging, schickte Henneman den Bandmitgliedern Smartphone-Aufnahmen simpler Akustikversionen zu - daraus entwickelte die Band einen Song pro Tag in drei viertägigen Studio-Aufenthalten.

Die Band ging mit einer offenen Einstellung ins Studio - um ihre Americana-Einflüsse stärker einzubringen und ein Album zu machen, das ihre Gruppendynamik widerspiegelt. Was sie dabei herausfanden, überraschte die Bandmitglieder.

"Die Vergangenheit war unser Bezugspunkt", erklärt Ambel. "Die Zeiten, in denen man Merle Haggard und Grateful Dead auf dem gleichen Radiosender hören konnte. Die Country-Atmosphäre entsprang den Sounds, die uns im Studio inspirierten. Sounds aus der etwas experimentelleren Zeit der Country-Musik, der Ära nach Hank (Williams) und nach George (Jones)."

Weitere Inspiration kam aus Americana-Quellen jenseits ausgetretener Pfade, beispielsweise von Don Williams, Poco, Jackson Browne, Jerry Reed und anderen, die während der Sessions in der Musik "auftauchten", sei es in John Hortons famosem und unkonventionellen Country-Folk-Fingerpicking, in Hennemans kratzigem, bodenständigem Gesang oder im blinden Verständnis, mit dem Mark Ortmann und Keith Voegele in den Country-Rock-Overdrive grooven.

Der Titelsong und "Lo-Fi" beschreiben wie die Modernisierung das Individuum betrifft - sie kann wie ein wunderbarer Zukunftstraum wirken oder wie entmenschlichende Realität. In "Bit Logic" sind Henneman und Ortmann herausragende wortspielende Textzeilen gelungen: "In my technicolor childhood / We burned incandescent dreams / Illuminatin' on these future things / That didn't turn out like we thought they would."
Und dann ist da noch die Kehrseite der Medaille, in "Lo-Fi": "Al Green in the kitchen/ On the AM radio/ Best bad sound that I ever did know/ Scratchy and it's muddy / But it carries me through/ Straight on down to Memphis in '72."

Das alles führt hin zur brillanten, berührenden Kritik an der Musik-Industrie "Bad Time To Be An Outlaw". In dieser sumpfigen Countrynummer mit Meta-Ebene reflektiert Henneman die Entscheidungen, die er in seinem Leben getroffen hat. Der Text erinnert an John Prine, an Waylon Jennings und Jimmy Reed:

That Nashville Pop it ain't my deal
Even though that cash flow's real
But these days "What Would Waylon Do?"
Don't make much money sad but true
It's a bad time to be an outlaw

Don't get me wrong I love what I do
Couldn't even change it if I wanted to
But random selection of the universe
Is makin' me think my job's a curse
It's a bad time to be an outlaw


Auf dem gesamten Album treffen Komplexität und Simplizität aufeinander, Tradition und Moderne, die Entschlossenheit, derselbe zu bleiben und die Notwendigkeit, nicht stehen zu bleiben. So haben es die Bottle Rockets immer gehalten. Auf Bit Logic erschließt die Band neues Terrain, bleibt sich aber trotzdem treu.


Formed nearly 30 years ago, the Bottle Rockets helped forge a now-popular subgenre-small-town, middle-class, Midwest American roots rock-part right-to-the-gut poetry, part rock 'n' roll, all truth. Bit Logic is a different sort of album for the St. Louis natives and shows them at their most self-aware, self-challenging, and socially alert.

Recorded in St. Louis at Sawhorse Studios, engineered by Mario Viele and produced by longtime studio collaborator Eric "Roscoe" Ambel (The Del-Lords, Steve Earle), the Bottle Rockets' 13th album has them looking at their unique stylistic blend through a different lens. While one of the group's earmarks is constructing blue-collar anthems, Bit Logic has the quartet focusing outside themselves, at how change and adaptation affects the bigger picture.

"We were not planning any kinda 'theme' to this album, but one kinda showed up," said lead singer and guitarist Brian Henneman. "If it's about anything at all, it's an album about existing in this modern world. Trying to dodge depression and anger. These songs are views from the moments when you're mostly succeeding at it." Yet, to balance those times when success may seem just a breath out of reach, the album includes the infectious pop masterpiece "Maybe Tomorrow" which offers an optimistic and buoyant outlook on momentary failure.

The band returned to its more democratic songwriting approach this time, which generated four co-written songs, in contrast to their previous and critically acclaimed album, South Broadway Athletic Club, which Henneman primarily wrote. Leading up to their time in the studio, Henneman sent around some bare-bones acoustic iPhone recordings that would serve as the album's blueprint, and the group fleshed out one song a day by means of three 4-day studio sessions.

The group went into the recording sessions with a fresh outlook-to bring out more of their Americana influences and to write a record that more accurately reflected their collective approach. What they found while doing so surprised them.

"The past provided touchstones," said Ambel. "Times when you could hear Merle Haggard and the Grateful Dead on the same radio station. The country vibe came from the sounds that inspired us in the studio. Sounds from the more experimental times of country. Post Hank, post George."

Other inspirations came from "off-the-beaten-path Americana" sources like Don Williams, Poco, Jackson Browne, Jerry Reed, and more, all of whom "showed up" in the music during the sessions, audibly channeling themselves through John Horton's hot-shit, phase-shifted country-folk pickin'; Henneman's penny philosopher, raspy drawl; or Mark Ortmann and Keith Voegele's in-the-pocket, country-rock overdrive.

The title track and "Lo-Fi" are pointed laments of how the ever-relevant topic of modernization affects the individual-how it can be a marvelous dream, but also a dehumanizing reality. In "Bit Logic" Henneman and Ortmann team up to pen some of the band's most clever and conscious wordplay, "In my technicolor childhood / We burned incandescent dreams / Illuminatin' on these future things / That didn't turn out like we thought they would." But there's always the other side of the coin, as in "Lo-Fi": "Al Green in the kitchen/ On the AM radio/ Best bad sound that I ever did know/ Scratchy and it's muddy / But it carries me through/ Straight on down to Memphis in '72."

It all funnels into the brilliant, poignant, quotable critique on the music industry, "Bad Time to Be an Outlaw." In the bouncy, meta, swampy country number Henneman takes stock, rethinks his choices in life, but still ends up at the same outcome. The lyrics are pure Prine, the music wonderfully reminiscent of Waylon and Reed.

That Nashville Pop it ain't my deal
Even though that cash flow's real
But these days "What Would Waylon Do?"
Don't make much money sad but true
It's a bad time to be an outlaw

Don't get me wrong I love what I do
Couldn't even change it if I wanted to
But random selection of the universe
Is makin' me think my job's a curse
It's a bad time to be an outlaw


Through it all, the album is the simple meeting the complex, traditional meeting modern, stick-to-your-guns resoluteness meeting adaptation. It's what Bottle Rockets have always done, but with a fresh take. Bit Logic breaks new artistic ground but remains in character.

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Bit Logic
BOTTLE ROCKETS
Bit Logic
CD
BLU DP0726
€ 14.90



1. Bit Logic
2. Highway 70 Blues
3. Lo-Fi
4. Maybe Tomorrow
5. Bad Time To Be An Outlaw
6. Saxophone
7. Human Perfection
8. Hnotty Pine
9. Way Down South
10. Doomsday Letter
11. Stovall's Grove
12. Silver Ring