At the center of every album is a musical thesis. This thesis can be the driving force behind the album, a theme that interweaves songs together, or a feeling you are left with after the very last song plays. With some albums, the thesis is easy to find. On others, it is hidden and requires you to be more than a passive listener. These reviews aren’t about rating an album. Instead, it is about uncovering a musical thesis.
The thesis for “Graveyard Whistling” by Old 97’s hits you like a ton of bricks. It is reactionary and well-thought out. It is, in my opinion, the best album ever produced by this band. It first begins with a reaction to the town you occupy and finding a way to cross the city limits for good. As a kid from a small town in Oklahoma, I can relate to this album with every fiber of my being. In a lot of ways, this album is an anthem for those willing to leave and risk it all chasing something bigger than themselves and where they stand.
Next, this album is a reaction to the joy of being lost. Once you’ve left it all behind, a grand quest begins. For some, this will be judged as endless wandering. Again, as someone who has called Edmond, Kent, Seattle, and North Hollywood home, I can relate to this idea. Questions of settling are tossed my way with the care of a grenade. I sidestep them because in the search I discover myself. I will never be able to find it standing in one place. For some that might work, but not me.
Finally, this album is a reaction to finding the one you love. If we hunt long enough, we eventually find a kindred spirit who views the world as we do. They become our partner in crime and a fellow journeyman. These people can ground us, and/or they can sprinkle courage on our wings. They fulfill needs and desires we have never been able to name. This is true power and makes life worth living. It makes leaving home worth trying. It makes wandering worth doing. It makes life mean something.
Be good to each other,
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