The Brooklyn Side sounds
exactly like what it is: a natural continuation of The Bottle Rockets, but with more budget to spend on studio time
and better gear. Recorded at Coyote Recording Studio in Brooklyn (the album’s
title appears to come from the climactic line of “Sunday Sports,” but there’s
kind of a chicken-and-egg question lurking here) in 1994, Brooklyn catches the band in the same form as their first album,
just a bit more polished and better produced. The collection of demos on the
combined reissue makes it sound like many of the songs come from the same
creative burst that populated the first album.
It always hurts to talk about when one of your heroes fails, but that’s what I’m out to do here. Charles Schulz is one of the great figures in comics; Charles Schulz sometimes fell on his ass. He did here. Acting with well-documented good intentions, he tried to do a good thing, and slid into what could most charitably be called mixed success. By introducing Franklin, a black character, into his immensely popular comic strip Peanuts, Charles Schulz wanted to harness his cultural power and use it to send a positive social message about racial harmony. He explicitly wanted to integrate his strip in a way that wasn’t demeaning or insulting. Thirty years later, though, Franklin was considered one of the prime exemplars of tokenism, a perception that has only grown as time has continued to pass.
Peanuts in 1968 was a cultural
juggernaut, appearing in well over 2500 newspapers. In an era when newspaper
comics carried a cultural weight nearly unimaginable today, Schulz was at the
very top of the profession, giving him one of the most visible platforms in the
country to trumpet any message he chose.
For the most part, Schulz avoided
politics in the strip, instead examining emotional and existential humor.