The Instigator Album reviews.
Release Date: 09.24.02
Record label: Elektra
by: bill aicher
Throughout his career fronting the alt.rock outfit, The Old 97's, Rhett Miller has shown time and time again his remarkable taste for catchy lyrical hooks and jiggers. Listening to 97's albums like Fight Songs or Satellite Rides shows more than a hint of his penchant for folky pop, but he never really got the chance to fully embrace this side of himself. On his second solo work, however, Miller not only embraces this opportunity to express this pop side, but to champion it.
Given Miller's folk/americana pop history, it comes as no surprise then that the songs on The Instigator still find their roots entwined in this alt.country twinge he's become so comfortable with. This likely be accompanied with a sigh of relief from those who self-describe themselves as Old 97's fans (and who are most likely to go into The Instigator a bit wary). On a likewise positive note, Rhett's pop sensibilities are in keen shape on The Instigator, though those looking for the more intriguing side of Miller may be left a bit disappointed.
For the most part, The Instigator lies its emotional laurels on the rock-and-roll love end of the spectrum, especially on the hooky "Four-Eyed Girl," the most country-twinged track, "The El" (a nod to Chicago never hurts), and the gooey, soppy pop sugar of "Your Nervous Heart." "This is What I Do," explores just that, what Rhett does: namely sing and write music and dance.
While The Instigator wholly succeeds as a foray into the pop/rock arena, it does suffer a healthy blow in the intellectual end. These are unmistakably sing-along songs, and that's more than likely Miller's point. He's not breaking any new ground, and it's even more unlikely he'll be gracing top 40 radio anytime soon. But what's most refreshing is Miller's acceptance of what he's done. He knows he's no pop star, but he has earned the right to craft a few tasty pop nuggets over a career and help them find the light of day on an album that wholly succeeds in what its trying to do. 13-Jan-2003 10:45 PM