The prospect of moving forward is a strange thing for Old 97’s. Most Messed Up, their most successful release in over a decade was a throwback to what worked during their Too Far to Care peak. And though vision was never the point, I’d say that the biggest fault in their output in the past ten years has been the lack of one.
So it’s hard to turn away from the two-song sequence where it seems like Rhett Miller might have something in particular on his mind: “Jesus Loves You” and the Brandi Carlisle-featuring lead single “Good With God.”
In fact, “Jesus Loves You” is the most enduring song on here, a more interesting version of “She Loves The Sunset,” in which Rhett competes with his lady’s other infatuation. Meanwhile, “Good With God” is a huge missed opportunity despite the brilliant concept that God is a woman, and that woman is Brandi Carlisle. Beyond Rhett’s badass first verse (“I made a mess, but it’s my bed”) and Carlisle’s killer vocals, there’s not much to plunder from the track. And actually, the album’s highlight comes right after. “She Hates Everybody” is a tight piece of songwriting that could fit nicely on even the best Old 97’s albums.
Otherwise, the album is fine, but only that. Most of the other tracks are dull minor key outings (“All Who Wander,” “Nobody,” “Turns Out I’m Trouble,” and “Good With God”) or fun but shallow romps (“Irish Whiskey Pretty Girls,” “Drinkin’ Song”). “Those Were The Days” would sound more at home on a Rhett Miller solo album.
Graveyard Whistling might actually take the title for the band’s weakest album, unseating The Grand Theatre, Vol. 2. At least along with highlights like “Perfume” and “Manhattan (I’m Done),” Vol. 2 sounds like it was coursing with some kind of energy, even if there was no focus. Graveyard Whistling sounds like a collection put together by a band that felt that it was time for a new one. And that’s fine, and it turns out fine, but the bigger picture isn’t very memorable and few things here would dare show their faces on a playlist of the band’s best songs.