Old 97's frontman Rhett Miller's major label solo debut is almost exactly what fans can expect: extremely well-written pop songs, heart-wrenchingly delivered, and brightly produced, making for a fine all-around package. The thing that comes as sort of a surprise is the level of power the missing members of Old 97's would have added if this was a full-band release. While Miller and producer Jon Brion (Fiona Apple, Aimee Mann) have crafted a bright and sonically diverse sound for The Instigator, showcasing Miller's obscenely clever songwriting and swooning vocal style, his individual work is not as strong as any of Old 97's albums. This may be an unfair comparison, since no effort has been made to mask this as a full-band release, but hearing Miller's unmistakable singing and songwriting style without Murry Hammond's backing vocals and the rest of the Old 97's chunky country-rock-pop behind him seems a little less than it could be. All "could haves" aside, the album on its own is a barrelful of fun. Brion's trademark sonic roller coaster is kept relatively in check until the swirling finale, and the country-rock burners "Our Love" "The El," and the single "Come Around," all sound like Miller and his guests are having a great time. The brightest points come from his explorations into Cars-era '80s pop ("This is What I Do" and the exquisite "Four Eyed Girl"). Although this clean geek-pop veers away from the alt country material he'd perfected with Old 97's, Miller seems to relish the break and really shines in this new light. Comparisons will undoubtedly be made between Miller and Ryan Adams (both of whom have been involved with genre-leading alt country bands and have done solo albums), but while it is arguable that Adams' solo works are as good (if not better) than his work leading Whiskeytown, Rhett Miller's solo turn, while fun and certainly worthwhile, does not overshadow his collaborations with his bandmates. Still, on it's own, The Instigator is a fine album with enough gems to keep fans of the genre going until the next Old 97's release.
|Label:||Elektra / Wea|
Performance CreditsRhett Miller Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Vocals
Robyn Hitchcock Electric Guitar,Background Vocals
Jim Keltner Percussion,Drums
Jon Brion Acoustic Guitar,Bass,Dobro,Piano,Drums,Electric Guitar,Hammond Organ,Background Vocals,Vibes,Piano (Upright),Guitar (Baritone)
Lenny Castro Percussion
Josh Freese Drums
Davíd Garza Bass,Background Vocals,Guitar Effects
Technical CreditsJon Brion Producer,Vocal Coach
Lili Picou Art Direction
Tom Biller Engineer
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Instigator based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Rhett Miller¿s ¿The Instigator¿ is like a breath of fresh air; so much so that I often confuse the two. Miller covers all the ground on his solo debut. His formula is simple enough that musicians should kick their own rears. It is, however, a formula that is heartfelt, genuine, and certainly rocks hard enough to make your girlfriend forget about you. Fear not devotees, ¿The Instigator¿ is as smart as the Old 97¿s albums with a bit more listenability. Robyn Hitchcock and John Doe serve as instant credibility without sacrificing style, and Jon Brion¿s production (and playing) is, as always, pop genius. Tracks like ¿Come Around,¿ ¿Hover,¿ ¿Four-Eyed Girl¿ and, heck, all of them allow for a flat-out, no B.S. fun listen. Rhett¿s not curing cancer here, but save that stuff for the experts, this album is the real deal. One word of advice: don¿t take your girlfriend to see Rhett in concert because, man, you don¿t want that.
Actually, a good friend of mine introduced me to the Old 97's while we were in her car driving around one day. At first I couldn't engage myself into that type of music (I was into a lot of punk music back then), but after I heard the first track of their album, Fight Songs, I couldn't stop listening to them. Finally, I bought my own album, and that is all I ever listen to these days. About 4 or 5 months ago, she and I found his solo CD, and we were both so crazy about the cover, commented on how hott he looked, and bought it because we were dying to listen to what he had to say/sing. As he never failed to complete his mission to send his message out by singing as great as he does, we both were over-satisfied with his album. Rhett Miller has an awesome voice, and I wish everyone could have a copy of his album, just because you need to listen to him every once and a while. His songs, like the others on ALL of the Old 97's albums, make me smile and I always seem to be in a better mood no matter what I'm doing... as long as I listen to my Rhett Miller, I'm all right! ^_^ I suggest you should buy the album right now!
A lot of songs on this album make me want to sing in the shower: Hover, which is generically pleasant, This is What I Do, and Come Around, the first single. Terrible Vision is perfect for everyone to clap in unison or flail like closed-eyed hippies. The background harmonies sound good and Beatles-y. The El is the country-est, Old 97s-est one, and also my current favorite on the album. The speedy drums are as good as a Red Bull at waking me up from post-lunchhour sluggishness. Let me never hear any of these songs while drunk in public, because I will surely make a fool of myself by dancing my little heart out. This album gets lots of stars, upward-pointed thumbs, and smiley faces. I hereby command you to buy it immediately.
If you're an oldtime Old 97's fan, you know pretty well the evolution of the band: indie alt-country heroes to major-label power-poppers with heaps of critical praise, just THAT close to being big rock stars. This album, the first (or second) major solo release from lead singer Rhett Miller (depends on if you count Mythologies, about 12 years ago), does not sound like the 97's. But who cares? It's full of classy, peppy pop songs that are quirky and clever without sounding too pretentious or precious. Rhett can make high-falutin' allusions (Kafka and Wagner IN THE SAME TRACK!) without sounding like a snob, and he can deliver earnest love songs, upbeat rockers... you name the song, he can probably do it. Rhett is probably not going for a no. 1 single with this album, but he doesn't have to... these songs stand alone as great songs, and together they make a great album. The writing combines an Elvis Costello-like intelligence and wit with a Ben Folds-like lighter touch. Altogether, it's a great album, and with only 12 tracks and a length of about 40 minutes, it's sure to leave you wanting more.