I’ve always imagined myself achieving rock-star status. In my fantasies I am handsome as all hell, or at least I think so. I have perfect hair and really hairy arms. I have an insane ego. So much so that the rest of the world seems to be below my hipster belt buckle at all times. Under the silly impression that I look like Antonio Sabato Jr., I magnify my insatiable craving for attention by putting my stupid face on almost every album cover.
My name is distinctly similar to another musician, but I’ve never thought any association would be made. I get a couple good record reviews and suddenly I’m hot shit. I start mingling with the big dogs, babbling with cigarettes in my mouth, getting shit-faced at high profile events, and become as quotable as P-fucking-Diddy (much respect Sean). But it doesn’t stop there. Because I am convinced that my shit is embedded with rare jewels, I start badmouthing fellow musicians, just like I did to my band mates as a youngster. That’s pretty much my dream.
Well, that’s the chronicle of the rapid rise of Ryan Adams, that silly little bastard.
Okay, you got me. That’s not my dream. But it is the chronicle of the rapid rise of Ryan Adams, that silly little bastard.
Emerging from the often-praised but actually mediocre alt-country outfit Whiskeytown, Adams launched his solo career with his critically acclaimed debut album Heartbreaker. Was this first record worthy of buzz? Sure it was. But it proved what we already knew was true — most critics can’t decipher a good record from a record that has three or four good songs on it. Heartbreaker is just that: four good songs with a bunch of monotonous filler.
Since then, Adams has released a few albums — Gold, Demolition, Rock ‘n’ Roll — that have disappointed critics as well as fans. Recently Adams has decided to continue his streak of letdowns by putting out Love Is Hell, parts 1 and 2. I haven’t heard Part 1, but if it has any musical connection to Part 2, I’d rather smear dog shit on the back of my neck than listen to it.
The opening track of Love Is Hell, Part 2, “My Blue Manhattan,” starts the overall theme of this album: overly dramatic. Hitting high notes where he shouldn’t, Adams unsuccessfully attempts to come across relaxed and poetic. Other songs, including “Hotel Chelsea Nights,” remind me of what I imagine Bruce Willis sounds like at his private musical performances. Though Bruce probably has more soul.
I have to admit, every time Ryan Adams releases a record, I get a bit excited. Maybe this time he has rediscovered his voice and recaptured the same honesty that was put forth on some of Heartbreaker‘s songs, I think to myself. But just like my hopes of Jesus stopping by my house for a quick head to head game of Connect Four, I’m left hoping. Adams’ quick rise but slower fall has led me to believe that he’s lost all that helped create Heartbreaker‘s four good songs.
Don’t worry, Ryan; it could come back. And hell, if it makes you feel any better, I have a bit of an ego problem too. I also have really hairy arms.