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Tuesday March 27, 2001

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CD Review: Old 97s

By Eric Swedlund

Old 97s

Satellite Rides


Grade: A

Up-tempo power-pop may be a far cry from the No Depression school of alt-country, but on Satellite Rides, Dallas' Old 97s nailed the transition.

Rhett Miller and his crew have crafted a peppy album, laden with hooks and love songs, putting on a display of versatility that leads them through 13 gems in 45 minutes.

Following the roots established with "19" and "Murder of a Heart Attack" from 1999's major-label debut Fight Songs, Miller's songwriting finds him blending alt-country with the pop sensibility of bands such as Weezer and Superdrag.

"King of the World," the album's opening track, starts the high-octane, energetic ride as the two guitars wrap around Miller's vocal assertion that he feels like the "king of all of the world." The album's seventh track, "Question," slows the tempo to a simple acoustic number, but it retains the love songs' pleading quality.

"Am I Too Late" follows with a familiar honky-tonk approach, reflecting the band's earlier album Wreck Your Life.

The album slightly drags on the next track, "Weightless," as Miller insists on announcing "yeah" after nearly every line.

But following that song are "Can't Get A Line" and "Designs On You," the latter being an adulterous plea packaged as radio-friendly pop.

One countable flaw is the far-too-keen sense of brevity that runs through the album. However, the band makes you forgive and forget the worst with its ability to mesh a pedal steel guitar with an up-tempo pop attack.

At worst, Satellite Rides may attract slight fan attention, and at best a little popularity could go a long way in relieving MTV/radio programmers from the dull, mundane rut they've stuck listeners with.