“Without exaggerating, it is a miracle I did not die. I snorted heroin a lot — with coke. I did speedballs every day for years. And took pills. And then drank. And I don’t mean a little bit. I always outdid everybody.”
“I got good advice on what tunes seemed to be working, and how to pace myself,” he said about [manager John] Silva’s help in putting together “Easy Tiger” from the dozens of songs he was considering. “He led me to view that process as a type of discipline — like going to the gym or something. Focus. Work on one thing. Make the one thing really good.”
Looks like our boy is finally growing up. Too bad. Hope this isn’t the end of such charming oddballs as “Look Who’s Got a Web Site.” Because that shit was funny. Kevincostner.com, what the fuck?
AOL is giving away two new mp3 clips (two minutes each) from Ryan Adams’ upcoming Easy Tiger, due June 26 on Lost Highway. Both songs should please his fans who wish he’d stick to easygoing country-rock.
Since one album per year is never enough, a box set is being planned that “may include live tracks, the fabled unreleased albums 48 Hours and The Suicide Handbook, the oft-bootlegged Bedhead series and leftover songs from the Easy Tiger sessions.”
“On one hand, there’s merit in being able to deliver (and take) a joke, but eleven albums’ worth of really bad jokes (even though most are short) seems like totally pointless overkill no matter how you slice it.”
You can still listen to this stuff for yourself at Cardinal Radio. And be warned, Ryan has released even more Shit (and DJ Reggie) on there since these were reviewed.
Lollapalooza is a funny event. There’s a lot of history around it, culturally and personally. I attended the first year’s Lollapalooza 15 years ago with a car load of my college pals, and I’m proud to say I’m still in touch with all of that original posse. We’re spread out across the globe now, but thanks to the internet we know who’s living where, who’s changing careers, buying houses, all that. Lollapalooza was a crazy idea back then, a strange celebration of (some of) the music we liked and the politics we were thinking about. Or something… Anyway, it felt like our thing in all its early-90s, pre-internet, slacker glory.
I went the next year, too, this time with my girlfriend. The highlight of the second Lollapalooza, for me, was Ice Cube. Although I remember being annoyed by the abbreviated versions of songs and all the “wave your hands in the air” crap (which was a huge hip-hop cliche even way back then!), it was still exciting to see my favorite rapper in person. My girlfriend was excited about Lush and the Jesus and Mary Chain. The headliner that year was the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a band I didn’t care for even though Anthony Keidis is from my hometown. We both agreed they put on a good show, though, with the fire shooting out of their helmets and all.
Fast-forward fourteen years. That girlfriend is now my wife. And Lollapalooza no longer feels like our generation’s thing anymore. It’s not just that we’ve got about a decade on the age of the average attendee. There were plenty other people our age (and older, believe it or not), but there was a different vibe. Maybe it’s all the shirtless dudes. Maybe it’s the crass corporate branding on every possible surface. Who knows? It was still fun, and there were lots of great bands, and it’s cool that it takes place in my city so I can just take the El home at night. But is Lollapalooza any different than Coachella or Bonnaroo now? Does it have its own personality? Or is it just another victim of our cultural homogenization?
One other circumstance that might have affected my attitude, even when compared to last year, is that my wife is currently expecting our first child, a boy, and that seems to make you look at everything a little differently. And while I don’t necessarily want to be one of those dads who’s always deliberately pushing his own unfulfilled dreams onto his kid regardless of the kid’s interests, I’ve got to admit that since the cochlear structures of the fetal ear have developed, he’s already been exposed to several cool shows: Tom Jones and Etta James at Ravinia, the Mountain Goats, Art Brut, Mission of Burma, and Yo La Tengo at Pitchfork. The baby seemed to be pretty chill at those previous shows, but he expressed some strong opinions at Lollapalooza. For example, he hates the Dresden Dolls. And even though he let us know he didn’t appreciate Lady Sovereign’s warm-up deejay, he did enjoy Blackalicious quite a bit, particularly his freestyle.
What follows will be my take on sets I caught at Lollapalooza this year as well as the reaction expressed by another music fan in utero as measured by number of kicks…
Feds bust fans for pirated Ryan Adams tunes: “RIAA chairman and CEO Mitch Bainwol said the indictments were particularly gratifying as they come from the heart of music country.” Remember kids, be careful out there. The Man is out to get you, and he’ll take you down.
I hated the Grateful Dead in high school. I was a dope. What did I know? I thought the Sex Pistols were anti-establishment and came together from the streets to tear down the mantles of hippy-dom. I had no idea they were manufactured in a fucking clothes shop. As it turns out, the Dead had more “punk” ethic in their day than John Lydon could farmer snot in his.
And so our boy Ryan Adams turns to Jerry and crew in the first song from the new album Cold Roses. This after the less-than-authentic angst and spit of Rock N Roll (review). And he fucking nails it. Shit, it’s even called “Magnolia Mountain.” You gotta admit, the kid’s got balls.
I have long been a fan of Adams. Sure, I bashed a release here and there, but it was because I fucking cared. I knew there was more. Cold Roses finds Ryan Adams back to doing what he does best. I hate to say a “return to form” because I wouldn’t want to stifle the guy to rehashing Heartbreaker for all his days, but Cold Roses does find Adams where he seems to be most comfortable—singing songs without adornment or pretension.
Gone is the thick reverb and English accent of Love is Hell (review); gone is the messed-hair over-compensation of Rock N Roll. What we have is what has always been known to Ryan Adams fans: he’s a fucking great songwriter with a beautiful voice.
Also gone is the bloated production of his last three releases. Anyone who was lost recently can cling with devotion to this album. It sounds fantastic. It’s simple. “Dance All Night” is all harmonica and twangy Telecaster. I have recently fallen off the alt-country train but this album retains everything I originally loved about the genre without sounding like a parody.
For Christ’s sake, I am writing a fawning review of Ryan Adams’ new album and I couldn’t be happier.
This album shows the songwriter in his rawest, most vulnerable form in years. The vocals on “Blossom” sound like he’s got a cold, and that’s a plus. It sounds like we just caught him on a night when he’s feeling like shit singing about a girl he’s afraid he’s lost. What’s better than that? My only complaint is that the chorus feels a bit forced. It feels crammed into the song, like the melody was written and the words had to accommodate.
Is it original? Well, what does that mean? You can certainly hear the influences, but this time he’s channeling them through his own lens. Maybe it’s that Ryan Adams channels 70s folk rock better than he does 80s college rock, but it works.
It’s easy to hate Ryan Adams. But it’s impossible to hate his music. Heartbreaker oozed with honesty, Gold exploded with melody, Demolition screams with potential, and his newest release, Rock N Roll does just what the name implies: it rocks.
According to Adams, Rock N Roll was conceived the day Lost Highway decided that Love is Hell was too moody to release. Ryan being Ryan, he drank away his troubles, met up with Johnny T, and decided to give the record executives something that is everything except moody. Out came Rock N Roll, the final bullet to the head of Whiskeytown.
Adams’ newest release is a trip through his record collection. You can hear U2 in the first single, “So Alive.” “Note to Self: Don’t Die” is the best song Nirvana could never write. “Anybody Wanna Take Me Home” takes a page out of Morrisey’s playbook. But should Adams be punished for wearing his influences on his sleeve?
Rock N Roll features Adams’ most intricate guitar work and showcases his ever-improving voice perfectly. The songs exhibit a new sense of attitude missing from Adams’ previous work. We always knew Adams was a braggart—now his music proves it. Ryan doesn’t shy away from responding the public through his songs either. “Note to self: don’t change for anyone,” he growls, responding to recent criticisms from both fans and critics alike.
While the album showcases a slew of guest performers such as Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day and Ryan’s current love, Parker Posey, they are neither a help nor hindrance to the songs. It is Adams’ record from the moment he says “Let me sing a song to you that’s never been sung before” in “This is It” (a tongue-in-cheek reference to The Strokes) to the album’s closing line “Los Angeles is dead” in “The Drugs Not Working.”
“Does anybody wanna take me home,” asks Ryan Adams. The answer is a resounding yes.
What are we going to do about this guy? Seriously. Not only does he put out two records in one day, but the one I get stuck reviewing is his foray into 80s light rock? I’d rather have the dirty stick, thanks very much.
Love is Hell, Pt. 1 (thanks for the warning of the coming Part 2) starts out strong, actually. The lead-off track, “Political Scientist,” is a spooky tune about chemical plants and all that dark grimey shit that is so in fashion during this Bush administration. The bass playing is fantastic and melodic like that of McCartney’s best post-Rubber Soul. The song launches into some nice soundscapes toward the end and can’t help but draw comparisons to bits of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (a band for which Adams is forever linked because of his constant disingenuous distancing). And while the lead guitar hovers too close to later day David Gilmore for my likings, it quickly recovers to a jangly mess that touches more on Mind Bomb-era Johnny Marr and continues Adams’ fascination with all things Smiths.
That, of course, brings us to the Mozzer-like “Afraid Not Scared,” which would be a fine song if not for the annoying layers of reverb all over the place. It’s like Ryan just discovered the Alesis Quadraverb that musicians everywhere first got their hands on in 1986. Most of this EP is stuck in 1986, in fact.
Produced by John Porter (yes, of the Smiths and Roxy Music fame), Love is Hell reeks of 80s polish and echo. It seems Adams cannot let his songs come through these days without drenching them in the putrid stench of bad production. For someone with all the bravado of a street fighter in print, he seems too afraid to let his songs stand on their own.
Even the Oasis cover “Wonderwall,” a song by two loud-mouthed mother fuckers who could teach Ryan a thing or two about being a ponce, falls flat with the use of a fretless bass. Fretless bass! Christ, even Sting has steered relatively clear of this soul sucking instrument since that crap Blue Turtle record that let us all in on his diabolical plan to soften rock.
Ah, but it seems our boy is a bit of an anglophile. Sure, good music lovers everywhere owe a debt to that tiny island nation for the wealth of great pop they’ve ponied up. But Ryan Adams seems to be turning into that annoying girl on foreign study who adopts a British accent two weeks into the semester. Yes, Ryan even screams out “love is ‘ell” on the title track. Need I say more?
Sad to say because I love a lot of what Ryan Adams has done, but what made his earlier work so compelling was his reliance on good songwriting and loose production. This album has neither and is better left for the WLHT crowd.
Ryan Adams is considering recording a new album with his former band, Whiskeytown, according to a recent posting on his own message board. In the message, Adams claims to be “thinking about doing something with Caitlin [Cary] and Skillet [Gillmore], a secret record, a Whiskeytown record for ourselves.”
This announcement comes less than one day after Adams claimed that his forthcoming box set is official: “It is now a matter of the artwork being finished.” Tentatively titled Love Is Hell, the collection will gather four discs of unreleased material, including two albums with his group, the Pinkhearts.