Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rhett Miller album review

Rhett Miller
Rhett Miller
(Shout! Factory)

When a singer goes the eponymously titled route several albums in, it usually implies some artistic statement or new beginning. For Old 97’s firebrand Rhett Miller, the former is true. Influenced by the deaths of his grandmother and literary idol David Foster Wallace, this one has a darker adult rock scope than the charming “Gershwin-meets-T Rex” spirit and winsome power pop heard on his previous solo effort, The Believer.

Miller initially planned an acoustic approach — as evidenced by the stark and unobtrusive instrumentation coloring half the tracks and hushed vocals. Fortunately, things don’t get too bleak and Miller’s knack for lyrical alliteration pokes through in strategic places (“I Need to Know Where I Stand,” “Lashes,” “Nobody Says I Love You Anymore”). Barnburner “Happy Birthday, Don’t Die,” a strange sci-fi tale about a woman buried in the catacombs of a distant planet who celebrates her 100th year by passing away, is a highlight; same goes for the wide-eyed Buddy Holly-styled gallop/harmonies in “If It’s Not Love.”

The relaxed, countrified “Another Girlfriend” dates back a decade (Miller unsuccessfully lobbied to get it placed on several Old 97’s discs) and contains this humorous couplet: “last thing I need is another girlfriend/two’s enough for me and you would make three.” Miller does an adept job at leavening the light and dark.

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