In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “There’s ups, there’s downs, there’s snarky country, there’s unashamed emotion. But most importantly, there’s some plenty of amazing, country infused, punk rock.”
I heard a single Old 97’s song about seven or eight years ago. It was in an episode of Veronica Mars. I loved it, and have had it my head ever since. But for some reason, I never really sought that song, or the band, out any more than that in the years since. But there’s something about that one song’s refusal to leave my head after all these years that gave me pretty high hopes as I pressed play on Too Far to Care.
Celtic drum beats at a break neck speed… Rocking, riffing guitars blasting away from the get go… Angsty lyrics kicking off with, “I got a time bomb, in my mind mom. I hear it ticking but I don’t know why.” Congratulations Old 97’s, you’ve cracked the code and figured out exactly how to make me love a band and album within five seconds.
With a vintage, country rock vibe, Barrier Reef is a great flashback to 50s and 60s roots, while having a quintessential and undeniable 90s vibe of snark and sarcasm, asking, “What’s so great about the barrier reef. What’s so fine about art?… When you’re working on a broken man”. Usually lyrics are the last thing I notice (and generally the last thing I care about) when it comes to a song, but there’s something about the sly and dry sense of humour of singer Rhett Miller that makes his words impossible to ignore.
Proving that the Old 97’s are more than just rock and infectious energy, Too Far to Care slows things down with the acoustic country regret of Salome. Before banjo pluckin’ and a cartoony vocal twang is given sarcastic punk rock nudge on W. TX. Teardrops. But all hints of sarcasm and 90s irony that may have squeezed through on earlier tracks are completely abandoned for the unabashed, genuine country rock of Big Brown Eyes, Just Like California, Curtain Calls and Niteclub.
As much as I enjoyed the mid album suite of sincere country, it’s the more punk rock tendencies of Too Fat to Care’s earlier moments that sucked me in, and I could have done with more of them. Which is why Four Leaf Clover is such a perfect album closer. It’s the song I heard in the Veronica Mars all those years ago. It’s a fantastic song in isolation, it’s even better when it caps off the journey of Too Far to Care. There’s been some ups, there’s been some downs, there’s been snarky country, there’s been some unashamed emotion, but most importantly, there’s some been some amazing country infused punk rock. A combo that get the ratios just right on the last song.