Everybody needs to get offa Ryan Adams’ jock. I mean, c’mon, it’s not fair to expect every album to sound like Heartbreaker. Radiohead only put out one OK Computer. REM only put out one Automatic for the People. And do you see anyone complaining? Yeah, but there are far more talking trash on the former Whiskeytown frontman.
Face it. You don’t want to like Ryan Adams. You, for some reason, find it forgivable for The Strokes to put out the same album twice, but when Ryan Adams doesn’t, you get all snobby and uppity about it. Well let’s face the facts here, chum. “Nuclear” was damn catchy, Heartbreaker gets a little boring if listened to in one sitting and RockNRoll (backwards) is rad.
You heard me, bub. Rad. Just listen to the first single, “So Alive.” The song is a transcendent rock anthem, with Adams bearing a strong resemblance to a young Bono. The song’s guitar riffs don’t exactly come close to The Edge’s delay-heavy style, but rather sound more streamlined and simple. It’s everything you’d want in a single — a catchy chorus, driving beat and a singer that actually has some range.
But RockNRoll is more than Adams mimicking Bono. He also channels Morrissey and Paul Westerberg. In fact, he once said he wanted RockNRoll to sound like an ’80s party rock record, or something to that effect. Well, that’s exactly what the album is. From the opening chords of “This is It,” the album is 40 minutes of riffage and hooks galore — all brief, to-the-point wank-less songs, regardless of what you anti-Ryans may believe. Only one break comes in “Rock N Roll,” a short piano-based song, in which Adams asserts “I don’t feel cool playing rock `n’ roll/I don’t feel cool/feel cool at all.” It may not be the protest against Lost Highway that everyone was expecting, but it’s a nice, quiet break between the album’s more rockin’ moments.
If you’re still not convinced, listen to “Anybody Wanna Take Me Home” and “Luminol.” The former sees Adams doing his best impression of his hero, Morrissey. But he doesn’t do a bad Johnny Marr either. The chorus-soaked guitar sounds like it was plucked right off of The Queen is Dead. The latter however, is the ideal choice for a single once “So Alive” has run its course. It’s a simple song, all power chords and four-on-the-floor beats. Adams’ wordplay in the song isn’t exactly Shakespeare, but still clever nonetheless (“I’m floating through a room of halls/All bloody in the luminol/I’m spinning round the room in awe/and on and on”). It’s rock songwriting done right: three-minutes, no bullshit and just the right touch of studio gloss. It’s a perfect song, and if you still take issue with that, then you, sir or madam, must not really be listening.
I mean sure, there are some disappointments here. “Wish You Were Here” and “Boys” contain some of the worst lyrics ever written, and it’d be easy to dismiss Adams as someone who had given up. But the other 12 songs more than make up for the shortcomings on these two.
Alright, fine. Don’t like Ryan Adams. See if I care. But you know RockNRoll is better than you say it is. Go ahead, listen to it again. You’ll thank me later.
Morrissey – Bona Drag
U2 – Boy
Replacements – Tim
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.