Monday, March 10, 2008

3.) Rock N Roll - Ryan Adams (ST. PATTY'S 2008)


Ryan Adams
Lost Highway Records.

SCQ Rating: 78%

Maybe it’s because Ryan Adams released five records during my university years (likely the most social years I’ll ever have) that I have such clear associations between his work and my life. While I would’ve adored his records at any age, those recorded during that period always remind me of particular street corners, bar booths, resident bedrooms, good friends or girls. And Rock N Roll wasn’t even supposed to exist; Adams hastily recorded it in spite after Lost Highway refused to release Love is Hell as his proper follow-up to the much-hyped Gold. Adams wrote and recorded the album in two weeks, dwelling in his friend’s bar basement, and paid for its recording on his VISA to keep the label clueless. So I find it humorous that Rock N Roll constantly reminds me of, well, me; some twenty-one year old arts student, who would wait until his parties were at their loudest before sneakily putting this record on for my own enjoyment. Believe it or not, I sold a few people on Ryan Adams this way.

You can feel Adams’ hurt in some cases – the ridiculous lyrics of ‘Wish You Were Here’ are practically sneering at the label that established him as a poetic song-writer – and his inebriated excesses are present the rest of the time. The Strokes-influenced ‘She’s Lost Total Control’ is as raucous an example as one can offer to someone who hasn’t heard this side of Ryan Adams; the Black Flag, Husker Du obsessive who once claimed he became a country singer because “singing punk was too hard”. That may be true, but Mr. Adams pulls it off here, giving his voice a convincing gravel on ‘The Drugs Not Working’ without abandoning his well-earned reputation as a song-bird on album highlight ‘Anybody Wanna Take Me Home’.

When Adams combines his rock sensibilities with that trademark voice, we get ‘So Alive’; a bonafide classic. Even critics who panned this album (there were many) must at least respect how compelling Adams presents his case; to make a riff-heavy rock record, paying homage to his favourite bands (which was coincidentally why critics hated it). For an artist who excels at writing mid-tempo songs with sad lyrics, Rock N Roll is an unexpected triumph.

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