Is it too far to care by now?
May 9, 2014 10:35 PM   Subscribe

The Old 97's are a country rock band formed in 1993. A part of the country-punk genre designated as No Depression in the early 90s (named after Uncle Tupelo's first album), they later added a more brit pop feel to their songs. In twenty good years of about twenty-five they've made their mark on the American landscape. Their newest album, Most Messed Up, is a return to their country-punk roots, where raw feelings overpower courtesy. Their lead singer, Rhett Miller, did an AMA on reddit to talk about it. The new album can be streamed here. It debuted on the Billboard 200 chart at #30, the highest debut in their history.
posted by Quonab (61 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I've been a fan of the Old 97's since their debut. I absolutely loved their initial releases, but only thought that the later stuff was enjoyable but just okay. The new album is just unbelievable. This year has shown a large response for 90's bands, but for me the Old 97's stand apart.
posted by Quonab at 10:41 PM on May 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wow, "plate of shrimp!" I just discovered the Old 97's last weekend after hearing Barrier Reef streaming online from a Chicago college station and marveling at the songwriting. I had no idea who they were (thanks Shazam!), but since then have bought a couple of their albums and learned they'll be performing locally next week. I can't believe I haven't heard of them until this year, they're brilliant. Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing them perform.
posted by Auden at 10:54 PM on May 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been a fan of the Old 97's since their debut.

Psssh. I've been a fan since I saw a movie with where vince vaughn and jennifer aniston were supposed to be at one of their shows.


But seriously, if there IS a 90's revival going on here are the bands I want to see:

1. Urge Overkill
2. Screw this list, I just want my local JBTV at 2am on Sunday mornings again.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:14 AM on May 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Their opening act this summer is Lydia Loveless who is not to be missed.
posted by nicwolff at 1:18 AM on May 10, 2014

I played bass for a singer-songwriter guy a couple years back who covered Solome. I don't know too much else about them, but I loved those lyrics. They can clearly write a song.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:11 AM on May 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

No Depression in Heaven by the Carter Family.
posted by maurice at 4:09 AM on May 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

My sister lived next to Rhett for a few years back in the 90's. Her stories, along with an episode or two I witnessed, would be a blast to recount here but I'm not in the mood to get slapped with a libel suit at this point in my life.

Believe me, though, they're entertaining in the most decadent use of the word.
posted by item at 4:39 AM on May 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is awesome! I discovered the Old 97s in 1995 or 96, saw them a bunch of times, and even hung out backstage with them at the Great Anerican Music Hall. They remembered me when I saw them again a few years later. They're great guys, and I loved their earlier albums but have been less enthused about their more recent ones. Off to download this one...
posted by apricot at 4:54 AM on May 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Meta-retro nostalgic revivalism!
Works better when you know the history of your sources and respect their abilities and talents.

Merle Haggard is still on the road.
posted by spitbull at 5:04 AM on May 10, 2014

They do know the history of their sources (the band's name is after an old folk/country song) and they do respect those abilities and talents, spitbull. I dunno if it's on their website anymore, but the Old 97's had a great duet with Waylon Jennings that I absolutely loved (The Other Shoe off of Wreck Your Life, I believe.)

Despite only Phil and Ken living in Dallas now, these are good Texas boys through and through. Murry's the one that has always had a love for like really old country music, the kind of stuff my grandparents used to play. His wife, Grey DeLisle, released a couple of albums focused on that. I think he produced them.

I need to get this new one because The Grand Theatre (both volumes) were disappointing and I am onboard for anything that comes back to TFTC.

The Old 97's are consistently a entertaining and great band live. Also, they've done me a solid a handful of times when I was younger and just discovering them. At least two shows I couldn't afford and Ken put me on the guest list. Greats guys all around!
posted by Kitteh at 5:17 AM on May 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

I fell in love with the 97's with Wreck Your Life but everything after Satellite Rides has bored me to tears. If this is a return to form, I might have to check it out.
posted by entropicamericana at 5:59 AM on May 10, 2014

I first heard them in 98 when they did an Austin City Limits episode. I went out and bought Too Far To Care the next day (had to order it because my record store had never heard of them). I still love that album but haven't been impressed by anything since.
posted by rocket88 at 6:15 AM on May 10, 2014

there's a lot people can say about the old 97s and rhett specifically that might be less than complimentary, but one thing that can't be said is that they unaware of the history. this alt country thing isn't just a put on for them. as Kitteh says, these are straight up texas boys inspired by the music that was all around them growing up. it's not a hipster affectation that they just picked up at 21 years old to form a band with.
posted by nadawi at 6:20 AM on May 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

I saw them open for Cake sometime around 1999 and then immediately went out and bought Fight Songs and then Wreck Your Life, which is, seriously, one of the best albums I've ever heard and I can't listen to a track without instantly being drawn back to walking around Ann Arbor as a freshman.

A lot after Fight Songs didn't really do much for me. I kind of gave up after Satellite Rides...

But, thanks so much for this. I really haven't thought about them in several years. I loaded this album up on Spotify this morning while I was making the rounds and running some errands and I really liked the first 1/3 of the album that I managed to listen to..

So great! Hooray!

Here, go and listen to If My Heart Was A Car.
posted by kbanas at 6:38 AM on May 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I totally recognize that they're a really good band, and I like a lot of their songs, but the dumb thing for me is that I've never been able to get past the apostrophe in their name. Lingering awareness of it always bugs me.

I should pull the stick out of my ass and check out the new album.
posted by COBRA! at 6:38 AM on May 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Ok, ok, crank up your stereo and listen to Timebomb too!

I'll show myself out now.
posted by kbanas at 6:40 AM on May 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

They are my favorite live band ever...I have seen them maybe 20-30 times over the last 10 years. Hell the wife and I saw them new years eve this year at the house of blues in Dallas. I am wearing their tour shirt right shit.

If you ever get a chance to see them live. Jump on it. Rhett's energy is contagious and the shows are so much fun.
posted by Benway at 6:47 AM on May 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, perfect - we're going to see them tonight at the Fillmore. I've been listening to the new album all week and it's great, but I shouldn't listen while I drive because it gives me leadfoot (like everything else of theirs).

Rhett Miller says he wrote Longer Than You've Been Alive all in one go, quick and done, and it feels like it in the best way possible.
posted by rtha at 6:57 AM on May 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

The 97's were playing at an old honky tonk in Deep Ellum, doing a Cramps song in our encore ("Some New Kind Of Kick"), and I mimicked Cramps' lead singer Lux Interior (RIP) by putting the microphone in my mouth (see: Urgh A Music War). When I removed the mic from my mouth, one of my bottom front teeth came out with it. Also, there was blood. That might have been my most rock and roll moment. The next day, I went to my dentist, a good old Texas fellow, and told him I wanted a gold tooth with the shape of the state of Texas in it. He refused. He finally consented to giving me a solid gold tooth after I explained that I needed a way to guarantee I'd never get a square job and be forced to make a living in music. I told him that the alternative was a face tattoo and he didn't want me to do that. link
posted by rtha at 7:06 AM on May 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Listening to the stream now and I'm loving this album. Rhett Miller has been ridiculously prolific over his career, unfortunately the quality has been all over the place. He's back on top with this record though.
posted by COD at 7:08 AM on May 10, 2014

FINALLY one of these threads where I actually have a relevant #baskinginmemories experience!

Saw then at Stubb's in Austin in 2001. They were good. GREAT STORY I KNOW RIGHT.
posted by psoas at 7:16 AM on May 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Old 97s & Waylon Jennings, Iron Road.

Saw Rhett Miller do Doreen solo in my beer tent a couple of Outside Lands ago. He had me at "She was drinkin whiskey sours at the bar…"
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:20 AM on May 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

This isn't the best video, but their cover of Mama Tried is quite respectable and they have been playing it for twenty years now.
posted by clavicle at 7:24 AM on May 10, 2014

Thanks for posting this. I'm not necessarily well-versed in the 97's entire catalog, but there are a large handful of their songs that I just outright love to pieces and will listen to until I'm old and dusty (Melt Show and Big Brown Eyes pop to mind immediately).

Giving the new album a listen and I'm really enjoying it so far.
posted by Ufez Jones at 7:26 AM on May 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh and I feel you, COBRA!, I never type the apostrophe.
posted by clavicle at 7:33 AM on May 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have been streaming this while reading the comments here, and it is good stuff. They are back on top of their game, clearly.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:36 AM on May 10, 2014

"Time Bomb" was a great song.
posted by jonmc at 7:39 AM on May 10, 2014

It's a totally normal use of an apostrophe. Plenty of style guides require it.
posted by mzurer at 8:15 AM on May 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have an old bumper sticker of theirs that addresses the apostrophe ("yes, it's spelled correctly, no, we're not stupid").

Fun fact: I am friends with the real life Doreen!

I used to see them every time they rolled into town in Atlanta, and a couple of times I flew out to Dallas for their annual NYE shows. It was during one Southeast tour that I ended up befriending another Dallas band (and their opening act), The Deathray Davies.
posted by Kitteh at 8:23 AM on May 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

The fact that this thread has mini-derailed into a debate over the apostrophe in their name is so Metafilter it hurts. And yeah I change the band name in iTunes whenever I rip one of their albums.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 8:24 AM on May 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

To apologize for my part in the derail, here's another piece of relevant source material.

And yeah, Time Bomb's a great song.

still hate that apostrophe
posted by COBRA! at 8:28 AM on May 10, 2014

The Old 97's what?
posted by Flashman at 8:59 AM on May 10, 2014

It was during one Southeast tour that I ended up befriending another Dallas band (and their opening act), The Deathray Davies.

Aww, the Davies are a lot of fun.

So many Texas bands I'm missing now. Nothing like getting sentimental at 11 AM on a Saturday Morning.
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:03 AM on May 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thank you.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:10 AM on May 10, 2014

The Old 97's are my favorite and have been for...crap, way too long. I've seen them over 30 times and Rhett Miller is still the only person (well, the only person I'm not married to) who I haven't wanted to slap after he touched my very pregnant belly.

(Once the baby that was contained therein was born, TFTC & Rhett's solo covers album would stop any crying in it's tracks. I'm not going to say it's a stop on the road to Rhett's canonization, but it sure did make newbornhood a lot more pleasant.)
posted by ThatSomething at 9:16 AM on May 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

puts on editor hat/

Here's the thing about the apostrophe: the band's name is a proper name, and that means they can spell it or punctuate it any way they like, and you can bitch about it, but they are not wrong.

/takes off editor hat
posted by rtha at 9:34 AM on May 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

for people feeling nostalgic for those awesome texas bands that played around the old 97's before their meteoric rise, centro-matic is offering up some cool shit along with pre-orders of the new album.

also, Kitteh - that makes me wonder if we know some of the same people. my husband helped out on one of the centro-matic/deathray tours.

this thread can't be complete without also mentioning slobberbone and pleasant grove.
posted by nadawi at 9:57 AM on May 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Here's the thing about the apostrophe: the band's name is a proper name, and that means they can spell it or punctuate it any way they like, and you can bitch about it, but they are not wrong.

Oh yes they are. Same with chefs who spell dishes any way they like on their menus, because neither chefs nor musicians are generally good spellers/punctuators. I'm sure the Rolling Stones were at one point "Rolling Stone's" until somebody slapped them.
posted by Camofrog at 10:05 AM on May 10, 2014

Apostrophe – Why is it “Old 97’s” and not “Old 97s”? Are the Old 97’s confused about the rules of grammar? No. “Do any of you have Webster’s grammar books? If you do, look up the section on apostrophes. You will find that it’s OK, in order to prevent confusion, to add an apostrophe before an ‘s’ when making something plural. For instance, if Johnny comes home from school and says, ‘I got two F’s today in attitude’, then he’s at least right grammatically. It would be confusing if he said, ‘Fs’. Get it? So five years ago we decided to invoke the rule and be ‘Old 97’s’ rather than ‘Old 97s’. Or ‘Old Nine-Seven-Ess’, as we would have probably be called. If you have ever seen our original demo, you’ll probably notice that we were ‘The Old 97’s’. I don’t remember why we changed. We just did.”
– Ken Bethea (1998)
posted by nadawi at 10:10 AM on May 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

My favorite memory is a trip my then wife and I took to see them in Atlanta with the friend who turned me on to them back in the day (this show might have been '01 or so). Happens the show was on halloween. Now, here in Seattle, it doesn't matter what you're doing for the evening, you dress in costume to go out on halloween. So my atlanta friends, in the spirit of having visitors from cross the country, go along with the plan and we all dress up.
The show was sold out and we were the only 4 people in costume. the band opened its set as they do, with a few rollicking familiar old songs wrapped around a couple from whatever album they've just released, and then they start some banter with the crowd. 'Hello Atlanta', Happy Halloween, that sort of thing. we're right up front, and hard to miss, and wouldn't you know it, Rhett makes eye contact and says 'this next one goes out to these folks who are really in the spirit' or some such, 'whad'ya'all wanna hear?'
One of us yelled 'Nighclub!' they conferred for a moment and broke right into it. it was a priceless concert going moment and solidified their place as my all-time favorite live band.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:13 AM on May 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thanks for posting! Am streaming now - how can you not love an album that has a song on it called "Let's Get Drunk and Get It On"?!?

From Nikki Lane's interview with Rhett:
Most Messed Up finds the Old 97's at their raucous, boozy best, all swagger and heart. Titles like "Wasted," "Intervention," "Wheels Off," "Let's Get Drunk And Get It On," and "Most Messed Up" hint at the kind of narrators Miller likes to inhabit, men who possess an appetite for indulgence and won't let a few bad decisions get in the way of a good story.

"A few people in my life said, 'You can't sing 'Let's get drunk and get it on,'" Miller remembers. "I said, 'What do you mean? I've been singing that sentiment for 20 years! I was just never so straightforward about it.'"
posted by hapax_legomenon at 10:13 AM on May 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

You will find that it’s OK, in order to prevent confusion, to add an apostrophe before an ‘s’ when making something plural.

This would be perfectly applicable if "Old 97s" were confusing, like "I got all As" is. ("I got all Fs" is also not confusing.)
posted by Camofrog at 10:21 AM on May 10, 2014

Y'all talk apostrophes all you want. I'm seeing them live at the Fillmore today.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:32 AM on May 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

this thread can't be complete without also mentioning slobberbone and pleasant grove

And centromatic, the rev. horton heat, the flametrick subs, explosions in the sky, the von ehrics, asylum street spankers, brave combo, at the drive-in, ghoultown, the white ghost shivers, Hayes Carll, Danny Balis, and easily hundred other bands I'm omitting and that's not even going back to the era of The Big Boys and MDC and D.R.I. or even touching the classic country/western stuff or hip-hop/soul.

I know people like to shit on Texas, and having lived there for the better part of 12 years, I understand better than most. But god damn, there's some great music coming from there.

Food too, but that's a whole different topic.

I told you this thread was making me nostalgic
posted by Ufez Jones at 11:15 AM on May 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

This thread is now officially selling albums. Glad I finally got up off my ass & looked into their catalog.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:56 AM on May 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Finding MeFites that are also Old 97's fans has pretty much made my day.

I lament that now that I live in Canada the ability to go to their shows is mostly nil.
posted by Kitteh at 12:43 PM on May 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've seen them live around 25 times in the past 10 years. (This shouldn't be surprising given my username.)

The last couple of albums have been somewhat disappointing, but I'm really happy with their new one. I look forward to hearing it at their NYC show soon.
posted by Four-Eyed Girl at 1:40 PM on May 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Somewhere I have a recording of Rhett singing "Jackson" with Jon Ginoli from Pansy Division, at a show when Pansy Division opened for them.
posted by gingerbeer at 1:56 PM on May 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Guys, guys, because of you, I have put the entire Old 97's catalog on my stereo to play over this fine warm Quebec afternoon.

I am so far from home but listening to them, reading your comments and love for the guys, well, shit...THERE MIGHT BE DUST IN MY HOUSE.
posted by Kitteh at 3:50 PM on May 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Am at the show with a couple of mefites.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:45 PM on May 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Nikki Lane was a great opener.
posted by rtha at 9:48 PM on May 10, 2014

I love the Old 97s. Can anyone explain for me the storyline of "Barrier Reef"? Is it about erectile dysfunction? Or just second thoughts about a 1-night stand?
posted by wmoskowi at 9:56 PM on May 10, 2014

It's just about picking someone up at a bar and how that goes sometimes.

The singalong for it was great. Likewise for Timebomb and Big Brown Eyes and Four Leaf Clover.

Outstanding show!
posted by rtha at 12:35 AM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Am at the show with a couple of mefites.

Aw, shoulda caught you!

The blood on the guitar was rather gruesome, no? Yay, Old 97's! Blood (literal), sweat (Rhett, also), and I guess tears (ymmv).
posted by purpleclover at 12:48 AM on May 11, 2014

The other day I was thinking I probably don't need to see them again (for the 6th+ time) when they come through Seattle on this tour. I'd like to thank this thread for setting me straight. OF COURSE I need to see them again. Off to check the tour schedule ...
posted by librarina at 10:09 AM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh dang they're playing *tomorrow.* I wonder if I can make it.
posted by librarina at 10:26 AM on May 11, 2014

Doooooo eeeeeeeeeeet
posted by rtha at 11:59 AM on May 11, 2014

Yes! Go see them!
posted by gingerbeer at 6:12 PM on May 11, 2014

I've always thought of Rhett Miller as one of the greatest half-song writers ever. I really like the beginnings of many of his & The Old97's's (how's that for apostrophe abuse?) songs, but then they circle back around and repeat the same damn stuff for the rest of the song. Sure, sometimes it's not literally a clone of the earlier bits, but near enough to be frustrating when your appetite's whetted for more of the creativity you just heard.
posted by NumberSix at 7:03 PM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

It would be really nice to see these guys get more recognition and success - I've always admired them and the way they pour their hearts into a show, whether it's in an impressive venue or some random street fest where they are sharing a billing with a U2 cover band.

By the way, if you are just getting into the 97s, I recommend you go all the way back to Hitchhike to Rhome, where they must have been 20 years old. A really fun album.
posted by Mid at 7:47 PM on May 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

If not for this thread and this comment , I would not be at the Lydia Loveless/Old 97s show now. So thanks, Quonab and nicwolffe.
posted by EvaDestruction at 7:01 PM on May 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

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