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Old 97s | Satellite Rides (Elektra)
After the immediately accessible Fight Songs 2 years back, and a real highlight of 1999, follows Satellite Rides which may not click first time around, but rewards the patient. Leader Rhett Miller really comes into his own on this album, delivering one evocative gem after another. The album kicks off with the power pop kick of King of all the World wherein the leading lady makes our hero feel like just that. The hillbilly twang on many of the songs, especially Buick City Complex, Up the Devil's Pay and Am I Too Late remind us of the band's roots, but it is obvious that they want to distance themselves from their pre-'96 sound and show off their pop credentials. The real stand out is Bird in a Cage where our man is in love again: "Maybe I've got a pulse now /Maybe my heart's on fire." A little radio play would send this particular chorus-to-kill-for track to the top of the charts if songwriting quality or tastefulness had anything to do with it. Which of course they don't, which is why you're reading this and not shaking your hips to Britney. Their best album by far then, which is saying a lot taking Fight Songs into consideration. Please treat yourself to one of the standout abums of 2001, irrespective of what joys are thrown at us later in the year. Oh, and get the ltd. edition if you can - you'll be treated to an extra disc of five live favourites and an non-album track.

Torbjorn Wickman
CWAS #8 - Summer 2001