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Satellite Rides

Old 97's

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Album Review

Moving even further away from their alt-country roots, the Old 97's fifth effort is a consistently engaging and unpretentious strummy power pop nugget. Bits of the effortless hook-driven approach of Marshall Crenshaw and Nick Lowe mesh with winning melodies that stick in your skull after the first spin. Hints of Brit Invasion Beatles/Badfinger-styled harmonies also infiltrate these songs, bringing a crisp vocal attack to play, especially in bassist Murray Hammond's subtle backing work. Guitarist/singer/songwriter Rhett Miller has honed his composing and arrangement skills to a fine edge, cramming these compact cuts (nothing runs over four minutes, most clock in around three) with smart lyrics and sharp, unaffected playing. There's still a little twang remaining from the old days in the driving double-time "Am I Too Late," and even a solo acoustic guitar ballad in "Question," but the band seems most comfortable pounding out crafty, infectious instant singles like "Rollerskate Skinny." Miller's voice is perfect for these songs, mixing just the right amount of pride, innocence, and youthful exuberance into the predominantly upbeat lyrics. But just as importantly, there's a presence and immediacy to Satellite Rides, partially due to the expert touch of mixer Tchad Blake, that makes it jump out of the speakers like the locomotive that provides the band with its name. Deftly incorporating their Texas roots with yodeling and a snappy punch makes "Up the Devil's Pay" one of the disc's most successful tracks, but there really isn't a lackluster performance here. The six-song live bonus EP that came free with early pressings proves how skillful the quartet is in concert, and that their biting, cohesive style is no studio-concocted fluke. The Old 97's sound is organic and natural, and on Satellite Rides they find the perfect balance between their roots in rugged country and pure chiming pop.

Customer Reviews

Great stuff from an underrated group...

I first heard of the Old 97's after hunting down the song 'Question', which I'd heard on an episode of Scrubs. I was pretty suprised to learn that they had their roots in the alt-country scene as 'Question' had sounded like a simple but solid pop tune. I listened to the snippets of the album on iTunes and they grew on me. The album's a great mix of pop, folk and country, mixed in all the right amounts. I'm a fan of alt-country music and americana as well so I particularly appreciate tunes like 'Up The Devil's Pay' and 'Am I Too Late' which really serve to expose the roots of the band. Of course though, 'Question' the song I'd first heard is still my favourite - it's a catchy and well crafted acoustic pop tune which clocks in at just over 2 minutes... always leaves me wanting more! The Old 97's are definately a band to check out and add to your collection!

Biography

Formed: 1993 in Dallas, TX

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Although they became one of the most enduring bands in the alternative country-rock catalog, Old 97's drew inspiration from a broad range of genres, including the twangy stomp of cowpunk and the melodies of power pop. Formed in 1993 by frontman Rhett Miller and bassist Murry Hammond, the group spent the bulk of the decade posed on the brink of mainstream success, issuing albums that often drew warm reviews but never yielded a substantial hit. Old 97's tightened their sound as the decade drew to a...
Full bio
Satellite Rides, Old 97's
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