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Ryan Adams: Rock N Roll


Ryan Adams

Album: Rock N Roll
Label: Lost Highway

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Ryan Adams has never tried to be loved, at least based on his public persona, but his best songs showcase an empathy that's hard to disguise: Both solo and with Whiskeytown, regardless of the arrangements in which his songs are dressed, the prolific Adams doesn't seem scared of sincerity or warmth. But his most recent records, especially Demolition and the new Rock N Roll–no, his punk excursions with The Finger don't count–find him exploring increasingly conventional classic rock, with much of his acute powers of observation held in check. In a widely documented effort to acknowledge his influences, Adams charts a course backward on Rock N Roll, hitting such touchstone favorites as The Strokes, The Replacements, and The Rolling Stones along the way. That's all well and good, especially considering the luminously proficient likes of "So Alive" and the vaguely Smiths-esque "Anybody Wanna Take Me Home," but way too much of Rock N Roll falls into the same trap that catches The Strokes: No matter how good a rock 'n' roll song sounds, it usually needs a certain amount of heart or heft. Here, Adams' subject matter is surprisingly run-of-the-mill, with an emphasis on troubled relationships, drugs, and self-destruction, and his arrangements aren't much more ambitious than the rote, bombastic hard-rock tropes of "1974" or "Luminol," which periodically resembles a lost Loverboy track. In the end, Rock N Roll is undone by Adams' legendarily faulty quality-control button, which lets too few diamonds mingle with too much dirt.