Mike Herrera must be one restless artistic soul. The prolific output of his best-known band, pop-punks MxPx, would be enough to keep most artists busy, with little time to think about other projects. Herrera, however, has found it necessary to pursue other avenues as outlets for the songs that don't fit the MxPx mold. Not only did he start the band Arthur to play his more melodic material, he also created Tumbledown as a vehicle for his Americana obsession. Though there are still a few trace elements of Herrera's punky past to be found on Tumbledown's Empty Bottle album, the predominant influence is alt-country, with a side order of vintage cowpunk -- the kind pioneered by bands like Social Distortion and the Long Ryders in the ‘80s. But the country orientation hasn't resulted in any kind of mellowing process for Herrera -- he and his bandmates are attracted to the rough-and-tumble side of country music's mythos. Their agenda is made crystal clear on the song "A Thousand More Times," where Herrera sings of "drinkin', gamblin', brawlin', and cursin'" like he was reciting the Ten Commandments or the Pledge of Allegiance. In a way, he is, and the spirit of hardcore honky tonk comes through on a number of Empty Bottle's cuts, with acoustic guitars and two-step beats abounding, but there's plenty of rock & roll fire raging throughout the album, too. "Meet the Devil," for instance, overflows with raw, rocking riffs, and "Arrested in El Paso Blues" is fueled by an undeniably punky fervor. In the end, though, it's Herrera's portraits of people on the losing side of the American dream, backdropped by all-American sonic scenery, that fill Tumbledown's Empty Bottle.
Empty Bottle Review
by James Allen