Monday, July 23, 2007

Re: Issue of Ryan Adams

From the Desk of Jordan Sowards, RB Semiregular Guest Blogger

There are those who might suggest that Ryan Adams' now-infamous prolificacy is a bad thing. Who would say that the quality his music suffers from the breakneck pace at which he writes and records? These people are foolish.

Dude's always going to have his detractors. After all, his public persona is one of somewhat of a horse's patoot, he's probably just a(n angle)hair too popular for most indie kids' comfort, and some are repelled by his serial genre-drifting. Personally, I don't know that I can think of a single other artist whose new releases I still anticipate as much today as I did five years ago.

Today finds me celebrating (almost) the entire Ryan Adams back catalog. That's because they are reissuing new, 180-gram vinyl pressings of Gold, Demolition, Rock N Roll, Cold Roses, Jacksonville City Nights, and 29. That's right, you can cancel your outrageous $175 bid for a copy of Gold on eBay (yeah, that's real and people do it), because tomorrow it can be yours for a much more reasonable $14.99 or so. If you already paid that much for yours-—sorry.

Heartbreaker was already reissued last year, but the gorgeous and elusive 2x10" Love Is Hell is inexplicably neglected this time around. In my mind, I see the oddly small-looking Love Is Hell running out to his mailbox to check on tiptoes one last time for his copy of the invitation to the party. Just then, the carpool containing all the other records goes speeding by and blasting Whiskeytown, and Easy Tiger is hanging out of the sunroof and pouring champagne all down the front of Parker Posey and Lindsay Lohan. Everyone laughs in slow-motion. And I just wish so badly I could make him a cup of chai tea or something, but he just goes inside to be so alone.

Paragraphs like that are the reason they don't let me give blood ever. But I can still go to Laser's Edge today and go crazy on the LPs. And I will. Here come corresponding digital goodies.

Sylvia Plath (live 11.21.02) from Gold
So Alive (live) from Rock N Roll
Strawberry Wine (live 5.16.05) from 29


Anonymous Jeff said...

Yeah, I agree with you about the prolificacy thing. I have no problem with him releasing as much as he wants, and some of his best material came in 2005, when he released three albums on four discs.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Leah said...

I have a problem with him releasing everything he has put out since Heartbreaker. No, I'm kidding. There have been a few great moments since then, but most of his recent material seems so disingenuous and contrived that it disgusts me.

Before 29 I owned every Adams record--Whiskeytown material included--but I could not bear that one. He may as well have titled it Ryan Adams Plays Your Favorite 'Dead Songs Only With Different Words.

All of this is coming from a gal who used to be one of Adams' biggest fans. I've just seen him write fewer and fewer good songs and screw up too many live performances. I think the last straw for me was when he played at City Stages in Birmingham; he insulted the audience more than he played his songs, kept drunkenly slurring "so happy to be at SXSW," and slamming himself into Catherine Popper, bassist for the Cardinals at the time. (I know she has left, and I hope that she has since found greener fields. She used to tour some with Hem and was quite lovely as a stand-up bassist.)

Finally, I DID buy the new record. Can someone tell me what's up with the changed lyrics to "Hey There Mrs. Lovely"? I think it's "Nighttime Gals" now, or something similar. Great way to screw up the once-perfect lyrics, Adams. "Mrs. Lovely" used to be one of is best ever songs (excluding, of course, Whiskeytown's "Houses on the Hill").

4:44 PM  
Anonymous Bob Grech said...

What I find strange is the pleasure people seem to derive from slamming Ryan for putting out too much music. I have to write those people off as obnoxious and insane (bad insane, not good, halloweenhead insane). In the 60's, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Monkees, etc. put out several LP's a year and it was deemed unusual for a band or artist to wait so long between releases.

It's anal artists like U2 and Bruce Springsteen that really bother me with the length between releases. It's like their music is way too precious and needs to be perfect before they will bestow their "artistry" on the public. That's why those artists' music is so sterile and uninteresting. They overthink it and over produce it until all the life has been sucked out of the music.

Ryan, like Neil Young, is a fascinating artist who releases what his soul produces without apology or fanfare. It's often raw and immediate. Take it or leave. If you chose to leave it,wait around for five or six more years before U2 or some other artist who thinks their shit don't stinks releases their steaming pile of crap on your turntable.

9:54 PM  
Blogger Leah said...

Hi Bob, thanks for posting.

Keep in mind, it's not an either/or situation. One doesn't have to choose between U2/Springsteen and Ryan Adams. There are plenty of wonderful artists out there who release lots of material quickly as well as wonderful artists out there who release material more slowly.

Also, the length of time that passes between a band's records doesn't necessarily have anything to do with what you call "overproduction." You and I could spend a few rushed weeks in the studio with the right producers and come out with something that sounds just as "sterile" and "uninteresting" as you claim U2's and Springsteen's music is. There are lots of other factors involved, and some bands simply don't have the time to release three records a year like Adams did here recently. (Was it '05 or '06?)

Certainly, though, Adams does deal with a lot of crap from fans and detractors. It probably has much to do with the fact that he has been such a public persona (hellraiser) for the past several years. People like that don't tend to go unnoticed, good or bad.

PS--I'm not one who necessarily dislikes him for releasing so much material at once, but I'm not so sure that saturation is a great idea.

10:09 PM  
Anonymous Bob Grech said...

Hi Leah,

Thanks for your comments. I know that you aren't one of the ones chastising Ryan for his productivity. It's just amazing how many blogs and articles I've read that mindlessly repeat the mantra that Ryan is putting out too much music. These reporters/bloggers tend to also lump in Ryan's humorous website "doodlings", not realizing that the website stuff was all a big goof, and not meant to be taken as seriously as many of them did. (The main failing I see with most critics, professional and otherwise, is a lack of a sense of humor and lack of individuality)

I suppose after awhile oversaturation is not a good thing, but being a Ryan Adams fan, I personaly was ecstatic with Cold Roses, Jacksonville, and 29 all being released within one years time (yeah, even 29). I would rather buy and listen to marginal Ryan Adams music than the best that most artists put out.

I would be an idiot to deny that I lack complete objectivity when it comes to Ryan Adams and his muse, so understand that what I say I do so with extreme bias.

Ah Life!

11:20 PM  
Blogger Leah said...

Don't we all, though! I completely understand, and of course I have a soft spot for Mr. Adams, as well. :)

12:06 AM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Hi guys. Good stuff here. I'm not necessarily in the "detractor" category. Is there an "indifferent" category? I used to be all about Whiskeytown and Ryan Adams. Now I'm indifferent, which I suppose is a bit telling.

It's just hard for me to detract from a guy who writes lyrics such as:

"So I started this damn country band, 'cause punk rock was too hard to sing."

"Well I found them in the northwest corner of the attic in a box labeled "Tinsel and Lights." Didn't know what I as looking for, maybe just a blanket or artifacts."


"All the sweethearts of the world are out dancing in the places where me and all my friends go to hide our faces."

Yeah, I know. All of those are from Whiskeytown songs.

Jordan mentioned anticipating all Ryan Adams records, but it's hard to anticipate them when you are getting surprised by them. Now, I have no problem with an artist creating. The guy writes songs at a savant-like clip. Why not share them?

But that doesn't mean I have to like or buy them. I believe in the anticipation Jordan speaks of--then absorbing the record, wearing it out, putting it on the shelf, revisiting it, and loving it for an entirely different reason than the the first time. That takes time.

It has become cliche to dislike Ryan Adams. But it's worth noting that it has also become cliche for critics to compare every one of his many new releases to Heartbreaker or a Whiskeytown album. And cliches don't occur in a vacuum.

I agree with Leah. There have been several great moments along the way, but I believe too much of a good thing often makes it mediocre.

I love Ryan's unapologetic fervor and passion that Bob speaks of. But I also reserve the right to be indifferent if music doesn't move me or if I'm not afforded time between albums to let it move me. And to an artist like Ryan, I think indifference might be worse than detraction.

7:56 AM  
Blogger bigshoulders said...

As a long-time Whiskeytown fan, and having seen them perform "back in the day" to hometown crowds in Raleigh and Chapel Hill, it took me a long time to listen to Ryan without separating the man from the music. It wasn't until this year, in fact.

I am glad RA is as prolific as he is, but I offer that he could do with a good editor to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.

Funny enough, I've never seen him live since he's gone solo. He's one of those rare artists that I would rather hear on my own terms, on the stereo, and without any stage drama or personae that precedes him. I may venture out one day, but for now, there are so many other endearing artists that I'd rather see.

I learned a long time ago that I couldn't see every band that interested me.


7:55 PM  

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