One Track Mind: Old 97′s, “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive” from Most Messed Up (2014)

If you were worried that frontman Rhett Miller might ease into a middle-aged softness as Old 97′s entered its third decade, this unhinged drinking song of an advance track from the forthcoming, apparently well-titled Most Messed Up sets all of that to rest.

Sure, Miller begins amidst a lilting little acoustic figure, singing with a bluebonnet’s sway. But by about 30 seconds in, it’s become clear that “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive” is talking not to your head but someplace lower. The track, due as part of Most Messed Up on April 29, 2014 from ATO Records, is about admitting what you’ve done, doing something else equally reckless, and then watching your regrets disappear in the rearview mirror.

He continues constructing a shambolic, whiskey bottle-strewn scene, even as the Dallas-based country-punk Old 97′s begin insistently ramping up their rustic groove. He tosses out a few striking images of life on the road — the dives, the nights it doesn’t come together, the mile after mile of highway monotony. By the time a scarring guitar joins in, Miller has swerved back into the bedroom of a dingy hotel, and he’s ready to admit his frailties, ready to drink away the rest of his faults, ready to, well, you know.

Of course, along the way, there’s been “mountains of weed and a handful of pills” — though Miller draws the line at anything harder: “That shit kills.” Finally, Miller seems to come awake to the fact that he’s maybe said too much, though even then he injects the revelation with a twinkling scamp’s sense of humor: “You should know the truth. It’s both a blast — and a bore.” The Old 97′s have always been more the former than the latter, and “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive” (even at this late date) only adds to that raucous reputation.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.