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Old 97's

Drag It Up – 2004 (New West)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Old 97's

Across the breadth of the Old 97s decade-long career, the Texas quartet has generally taken a different approach to each of their albums. After the country/punk/bluegrass/psychedelic quilt of their indie debut "Hitchhike to Rhome" in 1994, the band endeavored to present just a single genre on each successive album, but continued to avoid any pigeonholing.

"Wreck Your Life" classically rocked, "Too Far to Care" twanged and thumped, "Fight Songs" popped and jangled, and "Satellite Rides" showed their Carnaby Street-via-Dallas '60s pop chops. During the band's subsequent long break, frontman Rhett Miller released his first solo album, "The Instigator." Guitarist Murry Hammond collaborated with his wife, folk rocker Grey DeLisle, and the band lost its contract with Elektra.

Reunited, signed to New West and given a free hand in the studio, the Old 97s have assembled a return to the pastiche of their debut. From "In the Satellite Rides a Star" with its pop melodicism dressed in country gingham to "The New Kid" with its punky country swing to "Won't Be Home" and its double clutched drumming and Hank Williams-meets-Elvis-Costello country pub rock soundtrack, the Old 97s prove by example they haven't forgotten the substantial and varied catalog they've established to date.

The band keeps things loose and relatively raw while throwing around their standard brand of clever wordplay (from the alt.-country tome on infidelity, "Borrowed Bride:" "So take her inside, she's your borrowed bride/and you would not guess how much she has not cried..."), and while none of it seems particularly essential, it's a whole bunch of fun to listen to. With "Drag It Up," the Old 97s have put together a sonic scrapbook of their career and made a career album in the process.