Rock N Roll

Rock N Roll

4.0 7
by Ryan Adams
     
 

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"Let me sing a song for you / That's never been sung before," pleads Ryan Adams at the start of Rock N Roll, named for the guiding passion of his fourth solo album. With an artist as indebted to his influences as Adams, it's hard not to read these lyrics ironically, but there's no faking the earnestness of his love affair this time out. Never content to be justSee more details below

Overview

"Let me sing a song for you / That's never been sung before," pleads Ryan Adams at the start of Rock N Roll, named for the guiding passion of his fourth solo album. With an artist as indebted to his influences as Adams, it's hard not to read these lyrics ironically, but there's no faking the earnestness of his love affair this time out. Never content to be just an alt-country poster-boy -- a label he carried with his band Whiskeytown and his strum-and-twang solo debut, Heartbreaker -- Adams here finds his explosive musical talent doing the dirty with the sizzling sounds of the Stones, Paul Westerberg, Nirvana, Sonic Youth...you get the picture. And in case you don't, Adams sings certifiable rock lines such as "It's 1974 / Just like the day I was born," on the beefy hard-rock paean "1974," just to set the scene. Lyrically, he treads the border of rock clichés, singing about junkies ("The Drugs Not Working"), heartache ("Wish You Were Here"), and generally being lonely and f**ked up (insert any track here). But just when you're beginning to wonder whether he's shooting from the hip or the heart, he tosses in a soul-baring ballad like the spare title cut, where he reveals, "I don't feel cool at all." On the melancholy jangle of "Anybody Wanna Take Me Home," Adams divulges his Smiths fandom as much as a deep insecurity. If Ryan Adams is trying on different guises, it's more a matter of a musical soul not resting in one place for too long than any cold calculation. And Rock N Roll -- which finds him playing nearly all the instruments, alongside barely noticeable cameos from Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong, ex-Hole bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur, and Adams's current sweetie, Parker Posey -- is a page in his musical diary, a 2003 state-of-the-nation paper. That said, it's a must-read.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Ryan Adams is the male Courtney Love -- a hard-working hustler with impeccable taste who talks such a good game that it deliberately overshadows his music. Of course, Adams differs from Courtney in many crucial ways. For one, he's a workaholic, recording and releasing more albums than he should, which also points out that, unlike Love, he doesn't need a collaborator to help shove his songs over the goal. But the crucial similarity is that they're both students of rock history, conscious of what accounts for good taste within rock crit land, from 1973 to 2003. They don't just know the canon -- they want to be part of the canon, to the extent that it seems that they want to be the artist that all rock history has inextricably pointed to (or to paraphrase the far more eloquent Morrissey, they want to be the end of the family line). Which is why it rankles Adams when he's pigeonholed as an alt-country singer/songwriter (he's right -- he hasn't been alt-country since he left Whiskeytown) when Jack White steals his spotlight by doing a related, but not similar, spin on roots rock: he's so clearly the Important Artist of the Decade that he needs to pull the spotlight back on himself whenever it's shining somewhere else. With Gold in the fall of 2001, the wind was at his back -- his enfant terrible schtick was still relatively fresh, "New York, New York" became a post-9/11 anthem, and the music was eclectic enough to break him out of the alt-country ghetto, even as it was rootsy enough to still play to that core audience. By 2003, things were getting a little dicey for Adams, partially because he wouldn't shut up -- either to the press or on his online blog; he said many things to both, the most noteworthy being a bizarre pseudo-feud with the White Stripes, where he yo-yoed between calling Jack White a genius and kid's stuff -- and partially because he had diarrhea of the recording studio, cutting more stuff than Lost Highway could possibly release, particularly because he was moving further away from the label's core alt-country audience. They released the demos collection Demolition in 2002 but balked at Love Is Hell, his mope-rock tribute recorded with Smiths producer John Porter, but after some discussion, it was decided that Love Is Hell would surface as a pair of EPs, while Lost Highway would get a big, shiny new rock & roll record. Wearing his intentions on his sleeve in a nearly cynical manner, Adams called the album Rock N Roll, though in a fit of rebellious piss and vinegar, the artwork has it displayed as a mirror image: Llor n Kcor, which isn't quite Efil4zaggin, but the spirit is nonetheless appreciated. The title is so simple it belies the fact that this is a bit of a concept album on Adams' part, a conscious attempt to better the Strokes and the White Stripes at their own game while he performs a similar synthesis of glam rock and Paul Westerberg while dabbling in the new new wave of new wave spearheaded by Interpol to prove that he can do the arty thing too (though that proof is reserved for the Jeff Buckley-aping Love Is Hell). It's not just that the sound echoes bands from the past and future; the titles consciously reference other songs: "Wish You Were Here," "So Alive," "Rock N Roll," and "Boys" borrow titles from Pink Floyd, Love and Rockets, Led Zeppelin, and the Beatles/Shirelles, respectively; "The Drugs Not Working" reworks the Verve's "The Drugs Don't Work," "She's Lost Total Control" is a play on Joy Division's "She's Lost Control," "1974" harks back to the Stooges' "1969" and "1970," "This Is It" is an answer song to the Strokes' "Is This It," and "Note to Self: Don't Die" apes Norm MacDonald's catch phrase. These songs don't necessarily sound like the songs they reference, but there sure are a lot of deliberate allusions to other styles and bands: tunes that sound a bit like the Strokes, songs that sound like Westerberg, tracks patterned after Interpol but sounding like U2, and the glam songs that are meant to sound like T. Rex or the New York Dolls but come out as Stone Temple Pilots. While some of the material suggests that the record was written in a hurry -- instead of lyrics, "Wish You Were Here" sounds like a transcript of Tourette's syndrome -- many songs exhibit considerable studiocraft and songcraft, a reflection of Adams' exceptional taste and skill as a musician. But while some of the songs are undeniably catchy, they're essentially the sound of somebody responding to his influences and peers, sometimes in an alluring way, but not quite carving out a personal, idiosyncratic vision. That said, it's not a bad listen at all, particularly when Adams gets caught up in the sound of it all and sounds consumed by passion instead of mimicking it -- for reference's sake: "This Is It," "1974," "Luminol," and "Burning Photographs."
New York Times - Neil Strauss
A great, adrenaline-pumping rock album.
Rolling Stone - David Fricke
Here [Adams] is obsessively focused on things that truly matter: his favorite bands, killer hooks, the meaty, rude guitars he plays all over the place. Rock N Roll is exactly what he says it is.
Spin Magazine - RJ Smith
Even shapeshifters can have epiphanies. This feels like one. (B+)
Blender - Tony Power
With Rock N Roll, Ryan Adams has thrown off the trappings of underachievement and grabbed for the crown.

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Product Details

Release Date:
11/04/2003
Label:
Lost Highway
UPC:
0602498610015
catalogNumber:
000137602
Rank:
84758

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Ryan Adams   Primary Artist,Bass,Bass Guitar,Keyboards,Vocals,Background Vocals,Multi Instruments,Various
Paul Garisto   Drums
Johnny T   Drums
Joe McGinty   Piano
Joe McGrath   Piano
Tony Shanahan   Bass,Bass Guitar
Jamie Candiloro   Bass,Bass Guitar,Hammond Organ
Melissa Auf der Maur   Background Vocals
Billie Joe Armstrong   Background Vocals
Jonathan Flaugher   Bass,Bass Guitar
Johnny McNab   Guitar
Parker Posey   Background Vocals
Johnny T   Voices
Johnny Pisano   Bass,Bass Guitar

Technical Credits

Jim Barber   Producer
Frank Callari   Scenery
Eli Janney   Engineer
Ted Jensen   Mastering
Joe McGrath   Engineer
Brad Rice   Composer
Tony Shanahan   Composer
Jesse Malin   Spiritual Advisor
Ruddy   Insert Photography
Jamie Candiloro   Engineer
Tom Schick   Engineer
Bob Gruen   Insert,Insert Photography
James Barber   Producer,Audio Production
Ryan Adams   Composer,Costume Design
Lyor Cohen   Scenery
Andy Nelson   Scenery
Lauren Murphy   Scenery
Ryan Smith   Digital Editing
Richard Kern   Cover Photo
Josh Grier   Representation,Legal Advisor,Legal Counsel
Luke Lewis   Scenery
Dawn Nepp   Administration
Parker Posey   Composer,Executive Producer
Johnny T. Yerington   Composer
Julie Greenwald   Scenery

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