Between twang and songcraft

Here’s the quick summary: Satellite Rides is better than Fight Songs, but it doesn’t knock Too Far to Care off its mantle.

Fight Songs wasn’t a necessarily bad, but anyone who was blown away by the get-up-and-pogo ferocity of Too Far to Care might have felt slightly disappointed by the relative mellowness of the Old 97’s’ 1999 outing.

For an disc with such a strong title, it certainly didn’t seem to have much “fight.”

Satellite Rides, as many other music press pundits have already

proclaimed, is a nice convergence of Texas quartet’s last two albums. The songcraft of Fight Songs still remains, but it has a lot more of twang and recaptures some of the pump of Too Far to Care.

On such tracks as “Rollerskate Skinny”, “Book of Poems” and the first single “King of All the World”, Ken Bethea’s guitars strongarm their way out of the speakers, not necessarily blaring but certainly establishing some beefy-ness.

“What I Wouldn’t Do” has a chorus every bit as catchy as “19” from Fight Songs, and “Can’t Get a Line” could have lost the twangy guitars and still be a good rock song.

Oddly enough, it’s the more overtly country songs that rock out the most. It’s a tough call to two-step or pogo on “Am I Too Late”, and “Up the Devil’s Pay” features some nice yodeling.

Rhett Miller is still a master of writing clever couplets, and his earnest, heart-on-a-sleeve voice makes potentially sappy line sound like poetry. “I believe in love in love, but I don’t believe in me,” he proclaims at the end of “Rollerskate Skinny.”

If you’re sitting on the fence on whether to drop $15 on this album, rest assured Satellite Rides is worth the price.