There are some albums with which I become fast friends. Every song hits me with a startling immediacy, and, as a result, I keep my new discovery on continuous play for a couple of weeks, or at least until the newness begins to wear off. 1999's Fight Songs, the fourth full-length in the Old 97's oeuvre, is not one of those albums. Though accessible enough from start to finish, the album's washed-out genius never really struck me until after a couple of years. On their previous CD, 1997's manic Too Far to Care, lead singer Rhett Miller blames a fictional nightclub for his misspent life, singing "I just might get drunk tonight and burn the nightclub down." If Too Far to Care is a bouncing-off-the-walls, waiting-for-the-revelry-to-commence kind of record, then the ironically-titled Fight Songs deals with the morning after. From the fuzzed-out honky tonk of "Jagged," the opening track, to the quiet heartbreak of "Valentine," the album's closer, the mood is definitely downbeat. Songs about relationships in various stages of failure abound, most notable among those being the stunning "Lonely Holiday," one of Miller's best lyrical efforts to date. (The initial title of the album, "Imaginary Friends," comes from the chorus of "Holiday".) Even so, tracks like "Let the Idiot Speak" and "Murder (Or a Heart Attack)" (a minor radio hit, the latter details the sudden disappearance of Miller's cat) presage the pure pop bliss of their follow-up CD, Satellite Rides. So, in attempting to balance their own brand of raucous cowpunk with their burgeoning interest in finely-crafted pop, the Old 97's, with Fight Songs, have created an excellent collection of songs meant for the wee hours of the morning.


  1. Jagged
  2. Lonely Holiday
  3. Oppenheimer
  4. Indefinitely
  5. What We Talk About
  6. Crash on the Barrelhead
  7. Murder (Or a Heart Attack)
  8. Alone So Far
  9. Busted Afternoon
  10. Nineteen
  11. Let the Idiot Speak
  12. Valentine