According to the old saying, the more things change the more they stay the same. That is an apt summary for "Bit Logic," the 13th album from the revered St. Louis-based Americana quartet Bottle Rockets.
The 12-song set is thematically focused on coping with an ever-changing modern world - a notion that is buoyed by the band's resolute musical direction, which is mostly unaffected by the times. These separate, but related components work in concert to create an interesting artistic statement, though not quite a fully-realized concept album.
There is a bit more polish to the band's sound when compared to previous releases. Also, there are hints of some additional influences and textures at play in the sonic tapestry. Regardless, the songs show that by and large, the group remains committed to a blend of countrified roots rock that amalgamates the best elements of Waylon Jennings-style outlaw country, Lynyrd Skynyrd-inspired southern rock and the classic late '60s/early '70s country/blues/rock albums from The Rolling Stones.
What really sets "Bit Logic" apart from the back catalog is the lyrical content. Lead singer and guitarist Brian Henneman's worldview is one heavily influenced by all-encompassing role technology plays in modern life.
On the title track, a twanged-out barroom rocker, Henneman begrudgingly laments, "All this instant information/And virtual reality aren't clear/Vanishes as quick as it appears/You best be lookin' out the windshield not the mirror/To figure out the way to go from here."
Henneman also comments on technology and its role in how we consume music on the pointed and plodding "Lo-Fi" when he sings, "Now back when I was younger/The way to go/Was listenin' to records on my stereo/I was all about the quality/I was all about the tone/Now I'm happy hearin' music on my telephone."
Not all rants are focused on technology. On "Highway 70 Blues," Henneman sings about general disdain for traffic and with "Human Perfection" he looks inward to remind himself that there is plenty of beauty in the world when you turn off the hateful noise.
Look no further than "Bad Time To Be An Outlaw" for the most entertaining and unfortunate lyrics. The song's peppy rock guitar riff doesn't gloss over its honest lyrical assessment of the grim financial prospects for band's playing this kind of music.
Henneman shines with lines like, "See my car it broke, my furnace broke/My A/C broke, my telephone broke/And all them things they cost big bucks/My music's/good but my income sucks/It's a bad time to be an outlaw/It's a bad time to be an outlaw."
Fortunately for those hip to the band, it's a good time to be a Bottle Rockets fan.