Don't get me wrong, the production is great — New York producer Eric Ambel deserves much credit — but the songs' structures are so solid that with a little rejiggering and a savvy programmer they could likely slide into just about any format in just about any era.

That group had only a short run on a major label and never broke big. This seems tragic, and the idea of Henneman still having to hustle hard through middle age makes my stomach churn. But, given the choice, it seems better to have crafted enduring art than to have briefly shone bright. Too often, the latter seems to be the goal in hip-hop and in my own work as well. As a journalist and editor, I'm often tempted to set aside the enterprise pieces that take great effort in favor of blog posts that quickly go viral on the Internet (and are just as quickly forgotten). Hard work is no guarantee of any payoff. It has got to be its own reward, and I suspect that for Henneman it is.

The Brooklyn Side.
The Brooklyn Side.

That's not to say fetishizing or wallowing in pain (which continues to be an alt-country trope) is a good idea, or that hip-hop's good-time anthems carry any less validity. But it's clear now that the Bottle Rockets stirred many real emotions in me. Life is a painful thing, after all — for everyone, poor or not — and the acknowledgement of that remains cathartic. Sadness isn't an emotion monopolized by college students, and attempting to paper over it is no recipe for long-term happiness.

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