Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Album Review: Most Messed Up by Old 97's

Old 97s put the “Alt” in Alt-Country. Since 1993, Old 97’s have been defining the genre. With nine albums to their credit, they’ve influenced everyone who’s come out of the Austin music scene since. With their tenth album, “Most Messed Up,” they’re sure to recruit even more followers.

In case you didn’t know any of that, they remind you with their opening track, “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive.” While dozens of Nashville stars have come and gone over the past twenty years, Old 97’s brag, “We’ve been doing this longer than you’ve been alive” and even after all those years they add, “I’m only human, but I’m super sometimes”

This album is another one of those “sometimes.” Bringing their signature lo-fi, high energy, “Violent Femmes meets Waylon Jennings” sound, Old 97’s redefines Country the way a sledgehammer redefines drywall.

“Give It Time” cranks things up a gear or two with a scorching guitar intro. Singing, “When I saw you for the first time, I thought I might be sick. That combination of joy and compulsion, and you were the reason for it” you suspect that this might be an uplifting song about needing to give time for relationships to flourish. But in typical Old 97s fashion, it turns cynical as the chorus end with, “Give it time. It will break you.”

“Let’s Get Drunk & Get It On,” opens with some great crunchy guitar work. As you might imagine from the title, it’s their harder-edged take on Jimmy Buffet’s song of a similar name. “This Is The Ballad,” follows. And in case you thought this might be a love song, Old 97’s dispel that notion with the first line: “This is the ballad of drinking rye whiskey and sleeping til two on a warm afternoon.” “Wheels Off” shows off the early 80’s alt-rock guitar influence of bands like The Violent Femmes and Let’s Active (among others.)

The rest of the album showcases their unique musical alchemy. They take Rockabilly, Outlaw Country and Alt-Rock, then mix in a little Bakersfield sound, and top it all off with a healthy dose of punk attitude. (They even manage to throw in some surf rock on “Guadalahara.”) The resulting elixir is an irresistible cocktail (Molotov and otherwise) of classic Alt-Country. This album proves that Old 97s are still among the best at the genre they helped create. To miss this album would be “Most Messed Up!”

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