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The Instigator

4 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 28, 2012
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The Instigator by Rhett Miller

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Old 97's frontman Rhett Miller has always stuck to songs of heartbreak, I-done-bad confessionals, and the occasional exercise in rave-up solipsism. Regardless of which of those areas he's explored, he's set his lyrics in flawless melodies and delivered them with infectious energy. With The Instigator, Miller is at least partially on his own. Here he fronts a band that's less about fast-paced rocking and more about pushing his passionate yowl to the fore. He's still wondering if he's "gonna be lonely for the rest of my life" ("Come Around"), and he's doing so with such heart-rending conviction that you can't stop listening. And Miller's still creating melodies that shine in any setting. Straying from the guitar/bass/drums setup of the 97's, Miller employs organ on the tender "World Inside the World" and a decorous acoustic backing on the midtempo, pop-radio-friendly "Point Shirley" and "Four-Eyed Girl." Miller's energy bursts forth on the opener, "Our Love," and on his lo-fi paean to Chicago, "The El." Fans who like the Miller who pours his heart all over the stage will love The Instigator. --Andrew Bartlett
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 28, 2012)
  • Original Release Date: October 5, 2011
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Elektra
  • Run Time: 42 minutes
  • ASIN: B00006AGCO
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,642 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Anyone who has followed the evolution of Miller's band Old 97's will likely accept this solo CD as the next step in Miller's journey from cowpunk/country-rock to power pop. While a few tracks on "The Instigator", such as the wonderfully gritty and country-tinged "The El" or "Four Eyed Girl" would not sound out of place on recent Old 97's discs, most of this outing finds Miller pouring his heart out in smart, short, sweet pop songs. The ballad "Come Around" may be THE song that breaks Miller into VH1 land but it won't be because he sold his soul or drastically changed his sound. The song is beautiful, believable, and instantly catchy and it's just one of several that really shine on this CD. Other higlights include "Our Love", a nice under 3-minute rave up; the autobiographical "This Is What I Do"; "Things That Disappear", co-written with producer Jon Brion; and "Point Shirley", featuring some great back-up vocals from Robyn Hitchcock. For fans of Old 97's it goes like this: If you liked their last two albums then you'll love "The Instigator". If you're a bigger fan of the "Wreck Your Life"/"Too Far To Care" days then this CD may leave you longing. Finally, if you have no idea who the Old 97's are but do like artists such as Pete Yorn, Ryan Adams, Glen Philips, or John Mayer then Rhett Miller will make your day.
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Format: Audio CD
this infectious pop will never find its way to the airwaves and that's probably a good thing. it's way too smart for the masses. rhett miller, whoever he may be, is definitely an amazing songwriter. these songs are simply drooling with melody and rhythm. above that are smart to smart *ss lyrics that can make you laugh and cry within a single song.

i dare you to listen more than twice without becoming a rhett miller addict for life. you'll be jonesing for his next solo work, and you'll suddenly find yourself buying music from a band called "Old 97's" just because he's a member. This is really good stuff!!!
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Format: Audio CD
This, in my opinion, is not Rhett Millers best album. But I must admit that it is a near perfect collection of pop songs. The album is more consistant, song for song, than Fight Songs and Satellite Rides(Old 97's for those of you who are not fans yet). It is not as good as Too Far To Care. The reason being that these songs, as catchy as they are, tend to be more cute than clever. None of the lyrics on this record are as interesting as lyrics in songs such as Doreen, Barrier Reef, or House That Used To Be. These lyrics, although very good, sound a bit forced and usually have chorus' that do not add anything interesting,lyrically, to the songs.
Now that the gripes are out of the way I have to give the album its due. It is really hard to stop listening to. Some fans may have been expecting something different or will compare it to their favorite Old 97's albums and judge it harshly. I too miss the renegade, lovable loser, spirit of prior Rhett Miller songs and hopefully there will more of that in the future. But this album, taken for what it is, is better than Satillite Rides, and that is saying a lot. Songs like 'Our Love', 'Things That Disappear', 'World Inside The World', and 'The El' are vintage Rhett Miller songs. Even though some of the others can be overly cute and quirky they are still all likable in their own way.
I must say I still long for another 'Too Far To Care' or 'Hitchhike To Rhome'. But I secretly like this record a lot more than I feel I should. You will too, so go on out and get. It is a steal for the price.
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Format: Audio CD
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.
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Format: Audio CD
Rhett Miller is the pop soul of the yin and yang of Old 97's alt-country elegance. Here Rhett goes solo and can come forth with his songcraftery. Rhett is equal parts Paul McCartney, Paul Westerberg, Paul Schaffer, and Les Paul. He knows his way around a song and knows how to keep you singing loud and laughing all the way to the watering trough.

"Hover," stands out as pure pop confectionery...but the sugar is addicting and not empty. Rhett smirks behind his lyrics and they reach at moments into stand-up comedy cultural riffs. For instance, "Wrapped up in each other, making loving out of nothing, like the Air Suppliers said." It don't get much better than that for wittery all the way from Dallas.

There does not exist a single weak track on Miller's "The Instigator." It's a disc you won't find yourself pushing the skip button...ever. It's repeat play on a twelve-hour drive good!

For wit, listen to this sh__, "Richard thought his letters to his lover Matilda were a mess, he should have quit before he had written the address, they made love on the mezzanine, her husband was his friend." Rich, I tell you, rich.

It is difficult to listen to any songs on Miller's offing here and not sing-along. Pt. Shirley, The El, Our Love, This is What I do are all so truly truly good. Miller has more musicianship in his little pinkie than Jessica Simpson has air between her ears. The highlight of the album goes to "Nervous Heart," which is a slow burner low-fi true-ism of a song. "You gotta give the world the finger, and sing a happy song. Can I kiss your furrowed brow and calm your nervous heart?" My brother hipped me to this CD and the 97's and for that I'll never forgive him. Now I'm ruined on most everything else and find others that I previously enjoyed falling short.

Sing on dear Rhett, sing on. The rest of us will sing right along with you until your old or until your 97 whichever comes first.

--MMW
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