Published Jun 01, 2006With no end to the current polarised social climate in the U.S. on the horizon anytime soon, its nice that there are at least a few voices of reason standing up for the simple foundations of democracy. Bottle Rockets front-man Brian Henneman has earned a place in this group almost by default over a seven-album career, through his clever, even-handed tirades against both the PC forces and the neo-Cons, in between the bands normal no-nonsense blue-collar rock. Zoysia finds the proud sons of Festus, Missouri back on familiar turf after an excursion into the major-label wilderness with 2003s Blue Sky, with Hennemans beefy guitar back leading the charge. But it is a quest for balance that dominates the album, best heard in "Middle Man, Hennemans lament for a culture that promotes extremes, as well as on "Blind, which manages to squeeze in pot-shots at both racists and no-talent pop stars. But the strongest statement appears on "Align Yourself, which extols the freedom to belong to any organisation, without casting moral judgement on any of them. Such a stance would undoubtedly ruffle a lot of feathers if the Bottle Rockets were a bigger band. But in a world where there are also still strong divisions between rock and country, the Bottle Rockets and their fans already know a lot about the advantages of taking the middle ground.
Where does the word "zoysia come from? Henneman: Zoysia is a type of creeping grass. If you plant it in one yard, it will eventually take over the whole neighbourhood. So how that relates to the album is just about people with different beliefs who live next to each other needing to get along. If one of them has zoysia grass, the other is going to get it eventually, so theyd better get used to it.
Youve always seemed to carry the torch for "blue collar rock. Do you think that theres less quality music out now that speaks to the middle class? Well, there really isnt a middle class anymore. If you can survive in whats considered the middle class, youre pretty damn lucky.
Do you feel that thats part of the false image of America that places like Canada get from the media? Yeah, its become such a drag. All weve basically got right now is our reputation and I dont know how long that can hold out. Were just pissing off more and more people, so its easy to point out that bullshit in songs. Im glad to see more of that happening.