The Mes­sen­ger 5/10

UNCUT - - New Albums - sTePhen DeusneR

old 97s front­man’s fifth solo out­ing

Rhett Miller’s day-job band The Old 97s have ex­pe­ri­enced an un­likely resur­gence this decade, with a string of al­bums (plus a hol­i­day record) that re­cap­ture some of the alt.coun­try bois­ter­ous­ness of their early ef­forts. But the front­man and chief song­writer can’t muster much ex­cite­ment on his fifth solo al­bum, The Mes­sen­ger. Work­ing with pro­ducer Sam Co­hen (Kevin Morby, Cur­tis Hard­ing), Miller opts for a lean sound rooted in R&B and ’60s pop, but even the Temp­ta­tions bassline on “Wheels” can get this al­bum rolling. Once a song­writer with a deft fa­cil­ity for catchy hooks, his melodies droop un­der the lethar­gic tem­pos, turn­ing his self-dep­re­ca­tion into some­thing like self-ab­sorp­tion.

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