By Barry Gilbert
Of the Post-Dispatch

August 5, 2004

Old 97s
“Drag It Up”
New West


Like a child's candy-flavored cough syrup, the Old 97s deliver a dose of heartbreak and longing on "Drag It Up" that goes down easy on sounds of surf rock, country, Tex-Mex, punk, pop and '60s rock.

The Dallas-based band's first CD in three years, which boasts a few more rough edges than its final major-label release, "Satellite Rides" (2001), bolts from the gate with "Won't Be Home," featuring Rhett Miller's killer chorus: "I was born in the back seat of a Mustang/On a cold night in a hard rain/And the very first song that the radio sang/Was I won't be home no more . . ."

Although the songs are credited to the band, "Drag It Up" is still unmistakably the work of chief songwriter Miller, a self-confessed former nerd still working through those issues in his music.

"No Mother" is dedicated to friend of the band who was killed by a drunken driver.

While songs such as "Bloomington" display the band's country -- or alt-country -- roots, the 97s have moved well beyond that niche sound. "Drag It Up," and the 97s' concerts, show off a band at the top of its game.