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CD Reviews: Rhett Miller
Rhett Miller: The Instigator
December 2003
By: Ami Lieberman
album cover of Rhett Miller's The Instigator

Rhett Miller's brave leap from band front man of the Old 97's to a daring solo act was a successful one to say the least. His newest solo album, The Instigator, restores my hope that good songwriting still does exist. And while a few of the songs get lost in pop monotony, the majority merit recognition. Songs like Hover, Come Around, and The El show that Miller undoubtedly possesses skill at writing catchy energetic songs, alt-country style. And, intensely moving songs such as Terrible Vision and Nervous Heart show that Miller is not afraid to liberally expose his emotions.

There is nothing innovative on this album, but that minimalism is unquestionably responsible for its appeal. Lyrically and musically speaking, the songs are purely fun with the occasional emotive piece making an appearance. While his melodies are definitely captivating, there aren't complicated guitar solos or orchestrated bridges. It's simply a guy and his guitar, rocking out.

The opening track, Our Love, is an upbeat song where Miller alludes to love letters written by Frank Kafka and Richard Wagner. He sings, Kafka in his letters to his lover Milena was alive / But he was waiting for a love that never would arrive / Their rendezvous was singular, her husband was his friend, displaying his knack for clever storytelling in rhyme.

Although his lyrics aren't going to make your head swell with poignancy, one can still enjoy The Instigator for its fun-filled ear-ride.