Yes, I am trying some new shit out here. Bear with me…….

I’ve been picking through the most recent offerings from Cracker and The Bottle Rockets. The new Cracker album, called Countrysides, gets the early nod, more for the story behind the album than anything else. Generally, I’ve liked everything that Cracker has ever done. In fact, I’ve rarely been able to find a bad song on any of their albums. The story behind Countrysides is this – on each of their previous albums, the band always had a country-tinged song or two on it, towards the end, so the beast was lurking in them for a while. During a tour stop in the East Village in NYC, band members noticed that a few hipsters were actually starting to sport mullets and they had a conversation which essentially ended with them agreeing that the mullets were being worn as a ironic statement and not necessarily being worn to show off or to be be fashionable. It was then that Cracker decided to do a small tour and call themselves “Ironic Mullet,” a great band name in and of itself.

Touring as Ironic Mullet, though, they chose a different path, instead deciding to play out-of-the-way bars and roadhouses on the outskirts and fringes. It’s quite likely that everyone who saw Ironic Mullet on this small tour had no idea whatsoever that they were seeing a very talented, respected, pretty successful rock band playing country tunes in a crappy bar. What a great story. So this new Cracker album is a result of that tour – some old country standards and a few great David Lowery-penned songs, as usual. To me, it’s not a true Cracker album, but they remain one of my favorite bands of the past 10 years or so – inventive, professional, clever and not prone to the trappings of trying to create “radio hits.” If you don’t have any Cracker albums, particularly “Kerosene Hat,” you’re really missing out.

The new Bottle Rockets album, titled Blue Sky, on the other hand, is quite a curve ball for these guys. Known predominantly as a band whose three major influences appear to be something along the lines of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hank Williams and Slayer, their new album, upon my first listen, sounds much more pensive, more reserved and more, uh, grown up, I guess. Normally there’s 2-3 songs on each Bottle Rockets album that just grabs you by the back of the pants and wallops your ass all over the place. Those songs are not found on Blue Sky. What you get instead are 13 introspective, very tight, clean, crystal clear sounding tunes. You get a lot of acoustic strumming and the occasional rock romp, although they never, at any point, put the pedal to the metal like they have on previous albums. Having only listened once, my personal jury is still out and I suspect I’ll come to appreciate it much like all of their other truly great albums. But I’m coming to grips already with the fact that I’ll have to appreciate it in a much different way – a way that doesn’t make me want to pound beers and sing out loud – and that’s okay.

It appears that this pretty great piece of writing was Elliot Smith’s last interview. I hadn’t known that he didn’t want to release his new album on Dreamworks, nor did I know that he was involved in some kind of altercation with the L.A. Police at the Flaming Lips/Beck show and jailed for the night. I do know that if you stab yourself in the heart with a knife, you are a gigantic mess.

Song now playing: Sloan – “Money City Maniacs”