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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Singing Drummers, Cats Lying Down With Dogs, etc.: Terry Anderson and the Bottle Rockets

I'm really not sure how it got to be the third Sunday of May so quickly, but now that it's nearly the fourth, it's time for the May update on Robbie Fulks. May brought us child labor and unabashed provocation of fights between the guests. Mercifully, no tie of any kind, though.

In honor of the show's third anniversary, Robbie reflected on how he'd gone from calling up friends and bribing them to play to a figurehead who refused to do so much as open the shows with comedy bits. This was the cue for Tennessee and Preston "Fukes?" to come out. The older of the two boys (maybe 9 or 10) told a handful of jokes (and went off script enough, it seemed, to crack Robbie up a few times) and the other sat at Terry Anderson's drum kit (brave kid, I wouldn't touch another man's drumkit, let alone one that bore the logo of the Olympic Ass-Kicking Team) and provided a rimshot or two.

The main event this month was much more akin to our first Robbie Show back in November: Low on the bluegrass, devoid of classic "big names" in country, and emphasis on the "secret." As the months pass and my conception of Robbie takes shape, it becomes clear that a lot of his bitterness vis-à-vis rests on the collective heads of the Eagles. When John Doe was a guest a few months ago (we didn't attend the show, but we caught the broadcast of it on X-Country), he asked John if he ever had occasion to revisit the kind of music that X, as the Knitters, was taking a swipe at, only to realize that it wasn't so bad. John answered with a flat, unelaborated, "No."

This month, Robbie was hell bent on provocation from the get go, so I'm guessing that The Dude's nemeseseseseseeees had come up in conversation already, leading him to open the interviews with, "The Eagles: Anti-Christ or legitimate guilty pleasure." Brave, brave Brian Henneman of the Bottle Rockets answered, "Legitimate delight," at which point Terry Anderson (ugh, that site is hard to find and a bitch to navigate) ripped his head off and processed his skin for a new floor tom head.

Things continued to devolve for poor Brian as he revealed that he was listening to a lot of Rush and Heart along the way. Terry, obviously reveling in a smug sense of superiority (and who can blame him, when moments like these are once in a lifetime for drummers?), cited influences from metal to Brit Pop. Peace, love, and happiness reigned, however, when all agreed that the Ramones are a singularly inspiring band for an aspiring musician under the "Shit, I can do that principle." The reconciliation between the guests was sealed, probably to Robbie's chagrin, when both agreed that when it comes to song writing, they don't play well with others.

Terry and the Olympic Ass-Kicking Team were up first. Of those pictured in that link, we were missing Scotty Miller. Greg Rice was on keyboards (sometimes literally: one suspects there was a bit of dextromethorphan in his immediate past, as his keyboard fluidly moved between musical instrument and prop for his slumped over corpse), Terry (obviously on drums and vocals), Dave Bartholomew (on guitar and vocals), and Jack Cornell (who looks a lot less like Dough Henning and a lot more like Lt. Col. ManHo [particularly in profile] than this than that photo implies, on bass and vocals).

I've only just now realized that Terry is also in the Yayhoos, which doesn't surprise me even one little bit. If you don't know who the Yayhoos are, that must mean that you do not have the soundtrack to Slither, and that is a bleeding tragedy, because that fucking rocks, and the Yayhoos' "Baby I Love You, Now Leave Me the Fuck Alone," just edges out greats like "2 Days Smug and Sober" (by Carolyn Mark, Corn Sister to Neko) and Corb Lund's "Roughest Neck Around" for best song on it. The great tragedy of the soundtrack is that the Yayhoos get fucking censored on it, so you'll also need Fear Not the Obvious.

The Olympic Ass-Kicking Team is almost exactly as advertised by Terry when he delineated his influences: It's roots/southern rock metal with Brit Pop over the top. (I have to note that on the song Cornell did solo, he sounds uncannily like a much younger Rod Stewart.) In the interview, he also said he was loath to move away from his town of 700 people (80% of them over 70) in North Carolina (which Brian dubbed the "Double-Wide" state in response to Terry's South Carolina bashing), because he doesn't know what he'd write songs about if he did. I support this inertia if his hometown is, indeed, the inspiration behind "Getyoassupda Road," "I Feel a Drunk Comin' On," and "Thunderbird."

The downside to this part of the show was that Terry's drum kit and mic were downstage left, we were sitting at far house left, and as the announcer had warned us, that shit's loud. As usual, I had less of a problem making out the lyrics than did M, but it was a rare occasion in which the acoustics of Old Town's auditorium were subideal for appreciating the music. We did, however, pick up a few CDs and I predict that the lyrics will just get funnier and funnier.

My familiarity with the Bottle Rockets before Sunday was limited to find "Indianapolis" off 24 Hours a Day hilarious and profoundly moving. It's also emblematic of many of their songs, which are about blue collar folks and trying to get by in a world run by malevolent karma. But as grounded in the lives of regular folk as the songs are, Henneman (I'm assuming he's the primary songwriter, based on the interview) is great at the extended metaphor, you know the kind that stretches out over a whole verse, leads in the chorus you've already heard, but in such a way that you get it in a whole different light, and then bounces into a completely logical, yet wholly unexpected bridge. It's smart and literate song writing to appeal to the snooty in you, and it results in songs that are 100% hook.

But this stuff isn't just oh-so-witty golf-claps smart!pop!country. It covers at least much territory musically as it does lyrically, ranging from great driving music to thumping blues and grunge-adjacent wailing. Henneman's voice reminds me of someone else, and I can't think who, probably because the Bottle Rockets so obstinately sound like themselves and no one else. Not even, mercifully, the Eagles.

Fool that I am, I don't even think I have "Indianapolis" on my iPod, and I don't know how much more than that song that M has. Off the top of my head, I have to have "$1000 Car," and "Zoysia" (and if you were going to listen, those two, together with Indianapolis, give a great idea of the huge amount of ground these guys cover). I've gotta gotta gotta get my hands on "Welfare Music," and I'm not sure if I can live one more day without "You Can't Hide a Redneck (Under That Hippy Hair)," though I've never heard it.

I've been asking this a lot lately, and the question certainly should be directed to Robbie: Why does he want all my money?

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