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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Rhett Miller
The Instigator
Elektra Records

Rating: NR/10 ?


October 1, 2004
I've always kinda' sorta' been into the Old 97s, even though my gut told me I shouldn't be. In my formative alt-indie years I figured that they couldn't be all that bad - after all it was Bloodshot who had put out their debut - and then when the critics began raving over Satellite Rides last year I figured the coast was clear. At one point earlier this year I saw some photographs of Rhett Miller in the pages of a fashion magazine and decided that someone so dangerously good looking just had to be a fantastic musician... you know, to round out the package. Well, to make a short story even shorter, as it turns out the chiseled young stud in the upscale clothing ad wasn't Rhett Miller. And now with the release of The Instigator, Miller's second solo effort and first for Elektra, I've finally come to terms with the fact that he's not much of a songwriter either.

I can't say exactly where Miller went wrong with this release, because a handful of the tracks seem to be fairly well-written under the skin, but the finished product just leaves me... kinda "meh". In tracking down the root problem with The Instigator there's a pretty obvious place to start and that is the recruitment of fluff-maestro producer Jon Brion, the man behind the glossy productions of Fiona Apple, Aimee Mann and Rufus Wainwright. What I can only imagine began as rough, intimate collection of twangy pop songs wound up as a mediocre batch of homogenous, radio-ready hog wash that has only two speeds - whimper and amble. The disc opens with "Our Love," an up tempo country rocker that should be a barn burner but ends up hardly smoldering, seeming suspiciously like an Old 97s B-side. More serious missteps are made when Miller delves into retro-pop with the heinously 80s sounding "This is What I Do" and "Four Eyed Girl" a track that, in particular, tries too hard to be something different from the rest. In an odd twist, Brion's devilish hands, upon which I heap a large part of the responsibility for The Instigator's failure, are the very saviors of the album's final and only redeemable track, "Terrible Vision".

Sometimes a lead man breaking out on his own is a great thing, especially in Rhett Miller's particular genre, and we need look no further than Neil Young or Ryan Adams for examples of success. But after being totally creeped out by the lacklusterness of The Instigator I'm not even sure that I'll be up to the task of hearing another Old 97's album.

Reviewed by Monique LeBreau


See other reviews by Monique LeBreau

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