Old 97's - Most Messed Up (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Old 97's

Most Messed Up (2014)

ATO Records

"Rock and roll's been very, very good to me/ The open road's the only place I wanna be," Rhett Miller declares in the six—minute opening track to the Old 97's tenth studio album, Most Messed Up —— their booziest, rowdiest record in recent memory. "Longer Than You've Been Alive" is a raucous reflection of the Dallas, Texas band's 21—year—long run —— and with their success they've realized that they really have made a career out of playing in beer—and—whiskey soaked bars, and have been partying in style before some of their younger fans were able to walk. The song plays like an introduction to a stage show, an overture of rock—and—roll lifestyle they've mastered just like the music to follow —— scraping, powerful guitars, crashing drums, great one—liners and smooth harmonies making for awesome party tunes.

Most Messed Up details the Old 97's punk side to their sound —— there is a comfort to being an outsider, celebrating the imperfections in people and knowing they are detached from society's norms. The album sees Miller maintaining his poetic approach to songwriting but showing little restraint as he spins direct tales of life and love as a musician —— lacking the regret felt strongly on 1997's Too Far to Care and the neediness of 2001's Satellite Rides. It's like Social Distortion meets Todd Snider meets Johnny Cash meets The Replacements (Tommy Stinson actually supplies additional electric guitars and vocals for the album). The Old 97's are capable of making music consistent with their varied influences, and do it with a sincerity only they can pull off.

Songs like "Let's Get Drunk and Get It On" and "Wasted" are products of the machine that is the Old 97's —— Miller's emphatic, melodic vocals seamlessly supported by that strong, striking cowpunk sound. There is unity of the instruments as they pause and start up again with Miller's internal and external monologues that really adds to their straight—up rock and roll appeal. With lines like "you've got a gorgeous face, though it's a little odd/ tell me that you like the songs that tell the story of real love —— the kind that's flawed" and "I'm better off wasted than working my whole life through," it's apparent that the Old 97's are happy with where they are —— doing what they love as long as they can. Most Messed Up does feature one track sang by bassist Murry Hammond —— but his signature style of yodeling, whistling back—up vocals in other songs is practically absent —— creating a stripped—down, raw energy closest to the band's high—spirited, awesomely unrehearsed live performances.

While "The Disconnect" is a softer statement of the band's separation from society —— declaring "the real world isn't that real anyway," sliding guitars adapting themselves through circular rhythms to match conflicting emotions —— "Most Messed Up," the album's finale —— is a boisterous call—to—arms of all those who can't grow up and/or give a fuck about it. And the wild party continues —— "I'll prove it all night to the porcelain god/ and the dark—eyed girl whose name I forgot," as we finally hear Miller groaning and yelling, adding to the noise —— guitars wailing and screeching, drums booming and clamorous —— like a hot, electric thunderstorm drowning all stresses of normal adult life.

On Most Messed Up, the Old 97's unmistakably show their confident attitude of not caring who they may offend —— and with that comes an honesty, a need to come clean when you've dedicated your life to making music. "If you offer me an office, I'd have to pass," Miller says without doubt —— because the Old 97's are lucky enough to know where they belong —— getting hammered in a dim, smoky night club and playing music, loud —— no pretense, no regrets and no end to the party that is rock and roll.