Old 97's

With Elektra Records seemingly placing more confidence in Rhett Miller and his new solo career (his debut--well, his first solo outing since Mythologies--is due September 24) than the band behind him, it's only natural to wonder where the Old 97's will go from here. It's been almost a year and a half since they released Satellite Rides and attempted to meld their newly honed squeaky pop craft (on full display throughout their previous record, Fight Songs) with a tinge of their earlier raucous, alt-country edge. The results--most notably the catchy tangy-twang single "King of All the World" and the forlorn "Buick City Complex"--proved overwhelmingly positive. Even when compared with their circa-1997 Too Far to Care-era prime, their tunes are still endlessly endearing, and Miller continues to sound like he recently dropped out of high school and in front of a doctor. The doctor is telling him his broken heart is barely, just barely, beyond repair--in terms of sound, a good thing. So what's next? The 97's aren't rusty yet, and, assuming solo careers don't prove too tempting (or temptingly lucrative), we can only hope for more of the same.