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Ryan Adams – Rock N Roll

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I’ve been putting off writing a review of this album for a long time, because every time I listen to it, I like it more and more and I’m less and less sure WHY. I first took notice of Adams when I saw him perform “So Alive” on Letterman and was completely blown away. It sounded a little like vintage U2… better yet, it sounded like Radiohead used to sound when they sounded a little like vintage U2. (see ”Stop Whispering” from Pablo Honey) an yet it sounded completely new and original at the same time. And now that I’ve heard the whole album, every song makes me feel the same way. Every song has a little bit somewhere that reminds me of something else, but I’m never quite sure exactly what and the net effect is always just a really good rock song. I know some will cringe at the comparison, but the album reminds me a little bit of Michael Penn’s March if only because Adams clearly has the same kind of pitch-perfect ear for a good pop-hook. (Unfortunately that’s ALL Michael Penn had.) But Adams is clearly a great songwriter all around… this became more obvious as I tracked down some of his older stuff.

This is a great album – track by track – start to finish, which is a really rare thing nowadays. (See my White Stripes review) But the uptempo numbers here rock, the midtempo songs (“Anybody Wanna Take Me Home”) roll, and the slower, ballady bits don’t make me feel like my time is being wasted. In fact, the weepy title track may be my favorite Sad-Boy-Plays-Piano song since ”Raining in Baltimore” by Counting Crows.

So… two thumbs up… four stars… whatever. My favorite new album of the year by far. (I know it came out in 2003… I mean new to ME.)

Stay tuned for a review of “Love is Hell” which, while completely different, is just as good.

Dr. Dave (doctorsilence.blogspot.com)

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  • Dude, I felt the same way about this album.

    Read my review here

    By the way my favorite track on the album might just be the title track because it is so minimalist and beautiful.. I just wish it played out into another verse or something.. I needed more.

  • Dave, Ryan is one of my favourite recording artists ever. You should really check out his excellent albums with Whiskeytown also, if you haven’t already done so.
    Rock N Roll is the source of much controversy, and the debate rages on about wether or not it’s a “proper” ryan adams record, or if we should all just overlook it and head straight for Love Is Hell.
    Personally, i think it’s an amazing record, and i love the constant nicking of other folks styles throughout. It’s Adams’ Kill Bill, in that every track is made up of bits of other songs, styles, yet as a whole are unmistakably the work of this damn genius.
    It reminds The Duke of early Dylan is what, this level of prolific output without ever putting a foot wrong. There is of course the threat of burnout.
    Adams was quizzed on this by an Uncut writer, who basically stated how short a time it took for Dylan to go from Blonde On Blonde to Self Portrait. Did Adams worry about making his own Self Portrait sometime shortly?
    “I fucking hope so man, cause that’s a great album.”
    His reply caused the writer to run back and seek out Dylans neglected opus, and it convinced The Duke to give it another spin as well.
    Turns out Adams was right after all.
    i write this as i wear my beloved Heartbreaker t-shirt, and i congratulate you on your discovery. Go seek out those Whiskeytown records. You won’t be dissapointed.