Rhett Miller, the charismatic front man of the Texas
-based band Old 97's, burst into mainstream popularity with the 2002 release of his solo album The Instigator. Armed with the interminably-sappy yet undeniably-catchy carrier single Come Around (where Miller sings, over and over, Am I gonna be lonely for the rest of my life?), his song became an anthem for heartbroken lovers all around the world.
Although it's pretty sad that most mainstream fans still know Rhett Miller as just the guy behind Come Around, the song's success enabled new fans to become acquainted with his music, both as a solo artist and as a part of the Old 97's.
As a member of the Old 97's, Miller steadily helped guide the evolution of the band from alt-country musicians to true-blue pop rock-and-rollers. His solo album picks up from where 1999's Fight Songs and 2001's Satellite Rides left off; both albums had been hailed both for its catchy tunes and Miller's intelligent and witty lyrics.
These are the qualities that made The Instigator one of the best albums of 2002. Our Love is an infectious pop ditty about love letters by Kafka and Richard Wagner, while Four-Eyed Girl is a high-energy love song that tells the story of a rock star falling in love with a nerdy schoolteacher. Hover showcases Miller channelling Rivers Cuomo as he sings Wrapped up in each other / makin' love out of nothing / like the Air Suppliers said. The rest of the album is filled with similarly powerful guitar pop interspersed with heartfelt ballads.
But more than the witty lyrics and the catchy melodies, what makes the record work is Miller himself. With true rock-star confidence, he is able to convey despair and hopelessness, joy and excitement, and everything else in between with a croon and a swoon.
Track List for 'The Instigator'
1. Our Love
2. This Is What I Do
3. Come Around
4. Things That Disappear
5. World Inside The World
6. Point Shirley
7. Four-Eyed Girl
9. The El
10. Your Nervous Heart
11. I Want To Live
12. Terrible Vision