Thursday, October 30, 2008
I can't believe he named his record Cardinology.
Since the release of Heartbreaker in 2000, I have consistently purchased each and every Ryan Adams record. Some people think this is crazy. How could I stay with this guy? He puts out too many records and said records are wildly inconsistent, some bordering on straight up horrible. This I can't deny, but when Ryan Adams and I met on that cool fall day in September of 2000 when I purchased Heartbreaker, (the meeting here is metaphorical) a turbulent relationship began and I can't walk away. In many ways I'm like an abused spouse constantly making excuses for him or defending him to those who look only to bash.
The hardest thing about being a Ryan Adams fan is the man himself. He doesn't make it easy. I've heard sobriety has mellowed him, but let's face it, for a long time - dude was a dickhead AND his records were so uneven AND he was releasing so many of them - It was a tough time. I will insist, however, that on each and every one of those records, save 29 which is an absolute disaster, there were a few classics that sometimes seemed to make the purchase worth while. While I'm on this topic, I'll also say that his most maligned record, 2003's Rock 'n Roll, happens to be one of my favorites of his so maybe I'm the wrong guy to talk to when it comes to ole RA.
Think about it though, Demolition has "Dear Chicago", Jacksonville City Nights has "Hard Way to Fall", Love is Hell has "This House is Not for Sale" and "English Girls Approximately" Easy Tiger, which most people were pretty positive about, has "Goodnight Rose"...there's always something. This isn't even mentioning Cold Roses which is obviously bloated as a double album, but cut out the filler, make one record and you've got a classic.
I guess that's always been the knock on Ryan though. If he released nothing but EPs. he'd be great. Not every song he writes needs to be on the record. And I guess that's true, but I kind of like that the records are flawed. And not in a "well, I'll just delete the undesired songs from my itunes and make that perfect ep for my ipod" type of way. No, I like to listen to Ryan Adams records as whole statements because it seems like nobody makes them like him anymore (though this last Jenny Lewis record has come pretty damn close).
Most artists are content to put out a record they know only has four of five good songs. It's all they need in this day and age of digital downloads. Or they're the exact opposite and they're so concerned with making a perfect record which sometimes happens and when it does (the last two Okkervil River records, The Hold Steady catalog, Dear Science) it's great, but more often than not it doesn't and it comes off pretentious.
Ryan Adams doesn't concern himself with all that. My man has feelings and needs to express them whether you like it or not. Ryan Adams records are like puzzles - piece together Ryan's psyche or how he's feeling this season. Sure, it's self indulgent, but he's also one of the few remaining rock stars and that's pretty great.
Having said all this Ryan Adams released his latest record, the unfortunately titled Cardinology, this week and for every critic saying Ryan's in top form and this is a return to his roots - don't believe the hype. First of all, what are his roots really? Has he ever really strayed to far from them? Even his biggest departure, Rock 'n Roll, sounded like a Ryan Adams record. Sure, it sounded like the Replacements aping Ryan Adams, but it was still Ryan Adams. Second, Cardinology has about five classics, a few decent songs and the rest is filler. It's a Ryan Adams record after all and I kind of take comfort in that.
There's no point in reviewing it. You're either with the guy or you're not. As for me, I'll take a "Cobwebs" if it means I can have a "Crossed Out Name"or "Fix It" virtually any time.