12 September 2014

Ryan Adams - Ryan Adams

It might seem strange that I am reviewing two Ryan Adams releases in quick succession after reviewing his 7" inch vinyl release of '1984' (cleverly linked), but Mr Adams is finally releasing music.  After what seems like an eternity of three years between releases, an abandoned album and the odd ep & single here and there; the former Whiskeytown leader has finally released a new album and the first to be named after himself.  The main reason for abandoning a whole album of material was that it did not feel like it was his vision, that it was like someone else was working on the songs and he was not exploring new boundaries.  If I am honest, it is things like this that make Ryan Adams loved and despised in equal measure; but after working with producers for all of his other releases, this one is the first that is produced just by himself.  Now after placing a record on the shelves, let's see if that was the right decision?

Starting with "Gimme Something Good", Mr Adams has started the album with a song reminiscence songs from 'Love Is Hell' (cleverly linked here) and the gentle nature of 'Ashes & Fire' (also cleverly linked here).  It has that confident feeling from the former, mixed with the experience and maturity that came with the latter.  Much like 1984, it is inspired a bit by the early 80's American punk/indie scene; the difference here is that it is not condensed into a sub two minute frantic punk anthem.  Following on is "Kim", this finds Adams heartbroken and mournful; for me this can be the best facet of his musical endeavours.  When he is lost and full of sorrow, he has a tendency to make his best songs.  Whilst this one may not be up there with the classics, it is a good number none the less.  Once again, he has tapped into his inner-Westerberg again but this is not a bad thing; it is also one of two songs with Johnny "Captain Jack Sparrow" Depp on it. "Trouble" is the third song from this record and it follows the pattern of the first two songs perfectly.  The overall feeling that this album has is a retrospective sound which is not only nodding towards his previous recordings, but to his inspirations as well.  It is a decent number, but I am not hearing anything so far that is hitting new ground for Mr Adams; it is not bad, but it is also not ground breaking.

"Am I Safe" strips the music back further, again it is an Adams-by-numbers type of track and doesn't feel like he is trying anything that he had not done before; but once again the mixture of 'Love Is Hell' and 'Ashes & Fire' keeps the interest going.  "My Wrecking Ball" finds Ryan Adams going back to his Cardinals album 'Cold Roses', this acoustic track is a heartbreaker and much like 'Ashes & Fire' it is the first track on the album that truly works for me.  Because on that album, it was "Do I Wait" which was the fifth album; for some reason, it is the fifth track on this album that kicks start the album for me.  "Stay With Me" is another song with tones of his earlier works, it is a good little number that has a heart of gold in it.  It is also the first number that makes me want to sing along with the number (I apologise to anyone blessed with the gift of hearing that heard me attempt to sing), it is just that sort of number that influences my view on the album.  Following on is the dark and brooding "Shadows"; this number aims to be moody and reflective, it sounds really good to start with but it does not really go anywhere from that opening stomp.  There is not much progression in the number; this might be like mocking the afflicted, but as good as the song sounds it is yet another number which feels like it is just filling a box.

Next is the second track with help from Mr Depp, called "Feels Like Fire".  This number has more going for it than "Shadows" had throughout the whole number.  It has more passion going through it, it has a great short solo in it as well and it also has some of the best lyrics of the album as well.  "I Just Might" does what "Shadows" was aiming to do, but in a much shorter time; it is another number that is trying to be a rebel for the broken hearted.  But it builds into something else; it doesn't stay the same from the beginning to the end.  The reason it works better than "Shadows" is that it just simple, sometimes simple works so much better than complicated; even when you are doing your best Bruce Springsteen.  "Tired Of Giving Up" has an everyman quality for a Ryan Adams song, it could have been taken from any of his releases.  It is a pleasant enough on the ears, without making the soul soar to new heights.  Ending the album is "Let's Go" (not to be confused with the all conquering "Let It Go" from Frozen), this acoustic driven closing track feels like a homecoming and is once again just feels like a well crafted number that you would expect from Mr Adams.

It is easy for me to be critical here at the end of a keyboard, but when you review anyone’s' latest work; you do tend to compare it to their earlier work.  When it comes to Ryan Adams, the man has released so many modern classics that he has made his own crucifix for his back in terms of expectations.  Now, I know that it might seem I am being down on this album; but this is not my overall impression of this album.  I actually like this album an awful lot as a whole, if you play it as it is intended to be played then it works incredibly well; even "Shadows" works when it is played as a whole.  Some of the tracks are weaker when took out of the context of the album; so this is a true album in every sense of the word and not a group of songs which could be singles.  I have not heard a record like this for an awful long time that works better as a whole instead of individual tracks from Mr Adams.  

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Top Track - My Wrecking Ball

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

Here is a link to the Pax.Am website

As the Ryan Adams website is mostly the Pax.Am store, here is a link to the Ryan Adams Facebook

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

If you are a Deezer user, here is a link for you

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