Ryan Adams - Rock 'N' Roll
Alex Worsnip 07/12/2004
Ryan Adams is an admirable artist for the scope of his vision and huge swathes of his creativity. While some might find the huge swathes of material he releases irritating, I find it a refreshing return to the times when artists might release two or even three albums a year. He has not only released two seminal alt.country albums, but also an album of unreleased material and two side-project albums, each taking a wildly different direction. 'Rock n Roll' is an attempt to take another one: and, you guessed it, its rock. A quick scan of titles alone reveals how littered it is with rock-in jokes: titles include 'This Is It', 'Do Miss America', 'The Drugs Not Working', and '1974'.
And this is reflected in the music itself. The album's opener, 'This Is It', is a pleasent, soaring rock song, but is such an entirely calculated mix of The Strokes and U2 its almost funny. Surely deliberately, the title track is in fact one of the quietest, and sounds like an americana Coldplay. 'Do Miss America' is a wholly boring rock cliche, 'So Alive' sounds entirely like mid-80s U2, and '1974' is an almost sneering blues-rock dirge.
However, Ryan Adams fans, do not despair. Released seperately from this album are two 'Love Is Hell' EPs, given far less publicity. The first is already out and is in fact dark, original singer-songwriter music harking back to the days of the finest in the genre. Adams wanted Love Is Hell to be his next album, but the record company rejected it as being too dark, and Rock n Roll feels like a deliberately and cynically commercial response. It feels to me as if the title and songs are constantly laughing at the record label, by saying 'here's your commercial album, then', deliberately filling it with unoriginal cliches - there's even totally unoriginal cover art. So buy the Love Is Hell EP's instead.