Wednesday, November 4, 2009

79. “Won’t Be Home” by The Old 97s (2004)

“You’re a bottle cap away from pushing me too far”

Rhett Miller does not get the same wunderkind / boy genius / teenie heartthrob press coverage that Ryan Adams and Conor Oberst have gotten over the decade, but he has been quietly prolific, releasing record after record, year after year, it seems, either solo or with the Old 97’s. Most of these records are a bit uneven, but every one of them contains some really high points. “Won’t Be Home” is one of many songs that takes their patented “Cow Punk” sound, mixes it with a huge hook and chorus and some great lyrics to create a fantastic and subtley unique sound.

“I was born in the back seat of a Mustang on a cold night in the pouring rain, and the very first song that the radio sang is ‘I Won’t Be Home No More’”.

The Old 97s rock it. When I first heard them, I was turned off by Miller’s voice, which seemed like a bad imitation of Billy Jo Green Day. I came back to them after hearing them all over the place, and one day it clicked. Miller is a great songwriter and the aforementioned solo albums are very solid, but he’s at his best when the Old 97’s get that Johnny Cash “chugga chugga” drum going and that cow punk lead guitar takes over and it lets Miller pitch in as another member of a kick ass ensemble. These guys had a few records that seemed to come real close to mainstream pop rock, but other than that, they have never tried to expand their sound much, and that’s fine. They have a little place doing their thing and that’s how it should stay.

Listen to it here.

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