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Old 97's "Most Messed Up" Reviewed

Get wasted with the Old 97's

Get wasted with the Old 97’s

Rhett Miller’s problem hasn’t been that he is the leader of an alt-country band who never broke it as big as they should’ve but that he is the leader of a band that didn’t deserve to break as big as they might have. After six years of sustained brilliance, they took three years off, returned in 2004 with Drag It Up, and never quite got their mojo back. When I caught em live a coupla years back they were not the Old 97’s of old, Miller seemed tired and overweight and the set floundered, something I had never seen happen -not even during Miller solo sets.

Now in their mid-40s, bassist  Murry Hammond, Guitarist  Ken Bethea and drummer Philip Peeples were disagreement with Rhett as to the direction of their latest album, fourth this decade, Most Messed Up. According to the Dallas Morning News, Rhett had to battle with the other band members over the raw on the road material on Most Messed Up (one of em is born again). They didn’t want to explain it to their kids.

Fortunately the other members lost, and now I am sure I am just one more voice in a world of Old 97’s who hail Most Messed Up as their best work since 2001’s Satellite Ride. A sustain roar fueled by booze and life on the road and a long look back on 25 years of rock and rebel rousing from one of the best songs of the year “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive” which concludes that rock and roll has been very good to them. “Longer” is good enough to have sustained a bad album single handedly, but it is simply the first of eleven of the most memorable songs they’ve ever created. You can’t overstate the case for consistency and here it is astounding. Maybe, maybe,maybe “Intervention” could be stronger, it’s a blues country rave and a touch generic, and that’s it. The title track is a blast of humor and power, “Nashville” a worried out  smash, “This Is The Ballad Of” a hard whiskey knees up, “The Ex Of All You See” a Faces knees up and the entire mood that of a UK style pop band playing covers od the Replacements songs. This isn’t a guess, “The Ex Of All You See” would fit nicely on most Replacements albums and yes that is Tommy Stinson who made it down for a recording session when Rhett hurt his arm.

“Wheels Off”… is a fabulous sex song, “Let’s Get Drunk And Get It On” self evident… “Wasted” is about as close to a ballad as they are ever gonna on this one. … ahh, what the heck, it is all great.

This is a terrific, smart hard, fun…  maybe the best album of the year, certainly a glorious surprise to hear the band still able to crank it up and out. They are gonna have a blast playing it live. A couple of months ago I was planning a “the decline and fall of Rhett Miller” article. He ain’t done yet.

Grade: A

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