December 29, 2002

Ryan Adams "Demolition"

I don't get most Rock Critics. They're real quick-like to bemoan the sad state of "Today's Music," and long for some sort of mythological savior to come along and save The Music World from a percieved Hell. When someone comes along that fits said description, with the talent, the style, and the whatever it is, these same pissy Rock Critics impose super-strict rules as to how said band/artist should be. Instead of recognizing that something is good, they critique the hell out of it and take it upon themselves to start destroying this offending party. Tearing them down is especially daunting--and totally obvious--if you were the one who had just spent the past few months building them up!

Ryan Adams? Let me just say it right now--all of those people who put him down or dismiss him glibly--screw you. Yup. I'm being harsh here, but I really feel that the time for nice platitudes is OVER. Nothing bugs me more than hearing Adams bashed for his attitude and the fact that he wants to be big. It is wrong to begrudge a person's success--especially when that person's talent is really worthy of praise. I make no apologies for this; I mean, I think it's great that he's on TV and the radio, and if his attitude upsets you, then maybe you should just simply stop judging the artist's work by his personality.

Witness Demolition. Just in case you didn't know, this album was originally slated to be a FOUR-CD BOX SET of demos, outtakes, and sessions from Gold until now. If Whiskeytown's Pneumonia, Heartbreaker, and the expanded edition of Faithless Street are any indication, Adams can shit gold and flush it without remorse because something even better will come along shortly. The man's a prolific talent, and I don't think Bob Pollard's track record is as consistently great as Adams. (The only person I can think of that Adams comes close to matching in terms of releasing a quantity of quality is Adams' early adopter and friend, Elton John.) Faithless Street is an album that's augmented by an album's worth of demos and outtakes. Hell, Heartbreaker was recorded in a few days, in a session that Adams probably forgot about by the next round of sessions. In fact, if Faithless Street is any indication, his officially released albums are probably rivaled by even better sessions left unheard in the vaults.

Gold? Okay, I'll fess up and say that when I first heard it, I just didn't feel much of anything. It was a record that was worked on and worked on and while it sounds good, and the songs are good, it just seems to lack something. I think that it's going to be more important for what it did for Adams' career than it is for the actual music. If an artist doesn't hit a homerun every time (especially one with a stellar catalogue), that's no reason to dismiss them. Baseball players strike out, skaters slip on the ice, it's part of the game--same for musicians. Gold wasn't a stinker; it just was different.

Demolition, then, is a bit less glossy, a bit less larger than life, a bit less...well, it's just a bit less than Gold. He's got his Rock and Roll Swagger turned off on this one, and thus Demolition is a much mellower affair. There are a few really great rockers here; the big number here is "Nuclear," one of Adams' best songs, as well as an all-around great radio single. It's a rocker, but it's got a melancholy side to it, and it sounds like that one great lost Buffalo Tom hit that you knew they could--but never--produced. Ironically, there's another Boston-based band influence on the other big rocker; "Starting to Hurt" has a rolling bass line that sounds like it was stolen directly out of the wallet of Kim Deal.

Adams is at his best when he turns the songwriting on himself, when he magnifies his emotions on tape. Songs such as "Hallelujah," "Desire," "Cry on Demand," and "Jesus (Don't Touch My Baby)," Adams is tender, heartfelt, and apologetic--the things that made Heartbreaker so wonderful. And, yes, he really is a wonderful singer, songwriter, and musician--Rock Star image notwithstanding. These songs all tell one thing--Adams' best work is but one studio session away. Personally, from the sheer quality of his work, and of Demolition, I'm kind of sad that the 4-CD set didn't materialize. Of course, that gives hope of future releases like this--that is, if those session tapes aren't passed up by newer, later, and greater sessions.

We've wanted an artist like Ryan Adams for a long time. Now, we've got him. Stop complaining.

--Joseph Kyle

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