Ryan Adams hits rock bottom

Nov. 27, 2003, midnight | By Josh Scannell | 17 years, 1 month ago

Ah, Ryan Adams. You had such potential. You really did. I loved you so much when you fronted Whiskeytown. I loved you even more when you came out with Heartbreaker, and I hated all those girls that broke your heart. I thought that we would never split up when you came out with Gold, and "Harder Now That It's Over" became my personal breakup song. I cried every time you talked about the bracelet that you bought in Reno, where they sold old jewelry.

But, Ryan, the time has come. It's not you, it's me. It's us, really. We've grown apart. You're trying to branch out, and I respect that. Honestly, though, when you said that you wanted to expand musically, I thought you meant that you wouldn't be a contrived, uninspired, wanna-be hard rocker. Because, let me tell you: you can't pull this off.

Rock N Roll is so disappointing, Ryan. I thought that "Nuclear" was just a fluke, and that better times would come. I couldn't wait till your next, "Answering Bell." I missed "The Cienega Just Smiled" and how you knew all the right notes to sing to break my heart. When you sang "The Cienega just smiled/said see you around" tears flooded my eyes. God Ryan, you were so gifted. Why did you let it get to your head? What made you think that you could capitalize on this whole retro-rock movement and try to live out your dreams of being in the Smiths or New Order? And honestly, the Aerosmith stuff? I don't know what came over you.

More important than your style, Ryan, tell me, what happened to your voice? You used to know how to sing. Now, you sort of warble in a really annoying faux-tenor that doesn't fail to drive me crazy. Also, your vocal melodies are so contrived. From the first ten seconds of a song, I can predict every note that you will sing.

It kills your songs, Ryan, because your riffs aren't that awful. They divide almost equally into two camps: almost-D.C. post-punk and big-rock eighties. I like the D.C. sound better. It's ripped-off, but not so clichéd. And really, turn off that chorus/reverb, it make you sound dated. Dated sounded cool a few months ago when Interpol came out, but you missed the retro-rock crest, and now you just sound washed up. You had the electric guitar right in "Tina Toledo's Streetwalking Blues" on Gold. You should have stuck to that. That had Southern Rock swagger. Where is that now? Where are the memorable melodies? Where are the decent lyrics? Where's the anything?

Because good lord these lyrics suck. The title of the second song is "Shallow" and I can't think of a better way to describe your "poetry." Who thought that "Cause I gotta know/I gotta know/I gotta know/I gotta know/ I gotta know/I gotta know you inside out/Know what I'm talking about," was good writing? Generally bad lyrics don't bother me, but when they're this shallow, unromantic, self-absorbed and overall abysmal it can really kill an album.

That's what you've done Ryan, you've killed this album dead. Dead like a doornail. Dead like a frozen corpse found in the Andes mountains after six months of decay with a bullet hole between its eyes. Actually, that was too kind. Words cannot describe my disappointment, Ryan. One of your songs is called "Note to Self: Don't Die," and it's not tongue-in-cheek. What were you thinking? Is it the booze? The drugs? The Rock Star posturing? Whatever you're abusing, stop it, because you have immense amounts of talent squandered here.

That's clear because you had moments on this album. There were songs with good beginnings, a few with good verses, and every once in a while you'd have a rocking bridge. Your choruses and hooks always fall flat, though. The only moment that seems hopeful as a whole song is the last track, which you kill by trying to be spiritualized at the end. Really though, by the end, who's listening anyway? Not me.

By the way, don't call me unless you're ready to take responsibility for what you've done.

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Josh Scannell. Josh Scannell is an 11th grader at Blair High School. He is a page editor on the Silver Chips staff. When not working, he enjoys listening to, reading about, watching and playing music. He also enjoys a good movie and hanging out with his friends. More »

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