The Very Last Time

Disc 1 Track 11

Going back to listen to the song for this piece, I was surprised how fast and produced it is. Not that, in an absolute sense, it’s very much of either; but the version of it that exists in my memory is just Henneman’s voice and guitar creeping along at a carefully-controlled tension-inducing glacial pace. Those are the parts that stick with the memory, at least for me. The surrounding material that enables the effect just got edited away.

If my brain and memory are being unkind to most of the Bottle Rockets, I want to consciously acknowledge them. “The Very Last Time” isn’t a great song, but it’s a pretty good one, and a big chunk of the greatness is directly attributable to the grinding tension the rhythm section produces. Ortmann in particular sounds like a muscle car’s engine idling at a stoplight; he’s restrained for now, but you can feel the power just waiting to cut loose.

Working in tandem with that is the decision by Keane or Henneman or the whole band to mix simple, towering rhythm guitar chords way forward in the mix. I hear them and think of those mile-high thunderheads you see rolling in from the west in Midwestern summers before all hell breaks loose. Every component of this song evokes some metaphor of latent power.

Most of the song’s virtues lie in its instrumentation and production. Lyrically, Henneman voices yet another rural guy with his eye on the door of a relationship. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s a little generic. “Kerosene” is a haunting mystery whose shadows conjure an entire town’s worth of problems; next to that, another failing relationship seems pretty ho-hum.

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