Top 10 Songs by the Old 97’s

The Old 97s are a Dallas-based all-boy band of rockabilly hipsters with long hair, an eye for funky fashion and a knack for turning out music that is just flat-out fun. Much of their music seems like an old fashioned throw back- but to what era? The Old 97s don’t seem to want to be tied to a specific genre, but the closest I can get is categorizing them is alt-country. Texas style meets garage band practice and come together in perfect harmony in earlier albums like Too Far To Care and Fight Songs. Satellite Rides, released in 2001, is less ‘billy” and more “rock,” or really, more pop-rock. It’s not a sell-out. It’s just flirtation with music that would be considered a little more mainstream, a little more slick. But these guys, led by frontman Rhett Miller, know themselves and their fans too well. In 2004, they return to a more rough-around-the-edges feel in Drag It Up. With 10 albums released (including Best of and an EP) and counting, people often wonder where to start- old albums or new? The answer is, they are all a smartly, wittily, sexily written and you should really just own them all. However, I started with Fight Songs and it did the trick to get me hooked.

1 The New Kid- Despite its bitter message, The New Kid, from the most recent Old 97s album, Drag It Up, is a solid pop song, even if it’s little more slick than the usual.

2 Big Brown Eyes- This is the thing the Old 97’s do best- sing a song about a girl, just some song about just some girl who just happened to have some special charm; she never lasts forever and he likes to idealize the Kodak moment memories of what was or could have been in a song that makes all who listen wistful and wishful. Listening to Rhett croon, it’s easy to believe that he finds something irresistible about every woman that crosses his path- in this case, her big brown eyes.

3 Jagged- from the album Fight Songs, Jagged describes the misery of living in a failing relationship. Sounds depressing, but nothing the Old 97s rocks out about will ever really keep you down. This song encompasses their unique style.

4 Designs on You- A naughty little number, Designs on You is about a woman, Anette, Rhett wants to get down and dirty with, even though she’s about to marry someone else. You’ll love- “This would only be and experiment in things that could have been. You can go ahead and get married and it’ll probably never happen again.”

5 Bloomington- From Drag It Up, Bloomington is a sweet song, about another girl who just had something about her.

6 Murder of a Heart Attack- A sexy, rocker singing about leaving his back door open until his missing pet comes back home? It’s almost too charming, even for Mr. Miller.

7 Timebomb- This song leaves out a lot of the country in favor of the gritty garage rock. It’s fast and fun and another song about another girl- Celeste. This time it’s the legs that do him.

8 Oppenheimer- This song is just fun. The lyrics are simple, it’s easy to sing along with, and there are no hidden messages to think aboutâÂ?¦ it’s what people listen to music for. You’ll enjoy: good old-fashioned hand-clapping keeping the beat. You’ll probably even clap along.

9 Question- A cute, catchy and well written love song, Question tells a sweet story of the singer, Rhett Miller, proposing to his wife: Someday somebody’s gonna ask you/ a question that you should say yes to/once in your life/ maybe tonight, I’ve got a question for you.” This makes the perfect date, special occasion, proposal, or wedding song.

10 Nineteen- If you are or ever were carefree and stupid at the age of nineteen, this song will be your favorite. Like so many others on this list, even though Miller sings about a break-up (rather heavy material) the song comes off as light-hearted. You’ll learn to justify bad behavior with the excuse “I was only 19.”

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