The Old 97’s – “Most Messed Up”
It does seem kind of odd that on the week we have reviewed the new album from the latest hip young thing, Lana Del Rey, that we are also reviewing the latest release from The Old 97’s. The two are hardly from the same musical spectrum and not even the same generation, given that The Old 97’s actually emerged from Dallas some twenty years ago. However, one thing both artists have in common is that they are both very relevant today and have some fine songs.
This album seems very much a celebration of the band’s musical life, as clearly demonstrated by opening number “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive”. It’s a brilliant song, filled with humour and great lyrics about life in a band. We’re not just talking about the clichéd rock star tales, but instead a heart-warming tale of the highs and lows of a real band. They rock out a bit more on “Give It Time” which has that familiar country twang. It also has some great harmonies which help to build the melody. The fun filled, story fuelled lyrics continue on “Let’s Get Drunk & Get It On” Not surprisingly, it’s a great, rocking, good time song.
The band then do slow things down on the aptly titled “This Is The Ballad” which has a countrified feel about it. It’s a ballad about drinking whisky, presumably on a swing on the front porch, at sunset. On “Wheels Off” they add a bit of a pop touch in to the mix, it even has a hint of Elvis Costello about it. This is also true of possibly the best song on the album, “Guadalajara” which is a truly brilliant punk pop song which again has that Costello feel. The focus on melody is also present with “The Ex Of All You See” which has more of a commercial appeal to it, with its pop sensibilities. It’s a bright and brash song which will keep you humming for a long time once the song has finished.
It’s not all sweetness and light though as “Intervention” has an angrier and more raucous feel which you expect will make it a live favourite. Album closer “Most Messed Up” also sees the band take a break from the good times to express some of their frustration and anger. It ends the album with a kick, as it moves in to an almost punk/country track.
The Old 97’s may indeed be ‘old’ but there is definitely nothing stale about this excellent album. Instead, it’s full of rip roaring songs which will have you singing, and laughing, along to them. The tracks are expertly written and have the sense of tunes that will be warmly received, like old friends, not only by existing fans of the band but also a host of potential new comers. Guess it’s a case of twenty years and still going very strong!