Disc 1 Track 3
“Trailer Mama” takes a baton handoff from “Gas Girl,” almost sounding like it’s picking up a beat the latter had dropped. An interesting thing happens with the chords between the two songs, too; “Gas Girl” moves between E, D, and A, while the main riff in “Trailer Mama” is an extremely hepped-up guitar moving through D, F, and A. So, similar enough to almost sound like it’s the same song being continued, but different enough to sound kind of wrong if that’s the case. Which is a neat trick, because if “Gas Girl” is a fun and lighthearted song about a crush, “Trailer Mama” is an urgent, throbbing song about we-gotta-act-on-this-RIGHT-NOW lust.
I’ve been playing guitar for over 20 years now, and I still couldn’t tell you exactly what settings and parameters Henneman and Parr messed with to get the specific guitar tone of this song’s riff; I just know that I can’t think of any other song that so successfully uses the mere tone of a goddamned guitar to communicate urgency (one other thing I know: that it was intentional. Henneman’s Instagram account is a delight, consisting of maybe 20% pictures of his dog, 20% documentation of the life of a touring musician, and 60% obsessive fussing over guitars, amps, pedals, and combinations thereof in search of specific tones).
The jump from lighthearted crush to urgent, throbbing lust while almost sounding like the same song is jarring. So is the switch in lyrical content. The song’s narrator isn’t making a goofball out of himself at a gas station; he’s urging a woman with a husband and a trailer and a family to fuck him, assuring her that it won’t be a crime if they can pass it off as love. The question of whether it’s an invented character or Henneman himself talking once again raises its head here (if this and “Gas Girl” are both direct autobiographical statements, this was a weird time in his life). A song with the title “Trailer Mama” seems like a tarpit of class-based sneering, but Henneman’s accent and delivery perform a neat trick here; he’s calling someone a trailer mama but addressing her as an equal (albeit an equal he desperately wants to bone). This is a thing that’ll happen time and again through the Bottle Rockets- the band’s specifics and general vibe allow them to investigate the lives of the rural Midwest in a way that sounds sympathetic and also genuinely lived-in, almost unheard of in indie rock, which I guess this technically is.
I keep calling the song “jarring” and “weird” next to “Gas Girl,” but I want to make it clear that I just mean the transitional effect, and that I think it’s intentional, and that think it rules. To bang on about sequencing once again, this album’s first three songs build on each other perfectly, making you feel like you’ve accepted a ride from a guy who seemed nice at first but has been stomping on the gas steadily since you got in, taking you at increasingly frightening speed off to god knows where.
One last note: the liner notes credit Jeff Tweedy with backup vocals here. They’re surprisingly subdued and inobtrusive.