Dallas treasures the Old 97's are bona fine geniuses, and a case study in the limits of radio format. "Timebomb," "Barrier Reef," "Big Brown Eyes," "Murder (Or a Heart Attack)," "Jagged," "Valentine," "King of All the World," "Question" all are classics that fall squarely between Texas honky-tonk and rock 'n' roll that veers from drummer Philip Peeples' punk power to R.E.M.'s arena-proven jangle. Rhett Miller and Murry Hammond's songs could definitely fit an arena, and if you hear the crowd sing-along at an Old 97's show, you might think you're in one anyway.
Even after their major-label run, they continue to make very good music, such as "Won't Be Home," "The New Kid," "Dance with Me," "Ride" and "Champaign, Illinois" (which bites liberally from Dylan's "Desolation Row"). Their latest release, Most Messed Up, is the band's hardest-rocking album since the '90s, with self-referential moments ("Longer Than You've Been Alive" is Miller's retrospective anthem) and plenty of new tricks, too (like the beautifully MF-bomb-laden title tune).