( @TheRyanAdams, #Cardinals, #RyanAdams )
I purposely held off on reviewing this album for over a full week. I have been living with it in my car, MP3 player, and home media centers. I don’t know if it was intentional, but I got the album on Saturday Dec 4th. It has been in constant rotation in the Lombardi household.
Now that I am comfortable with the songs, here is my take:
- Breakdown into the Resolve: The album opens up with the crunchy Ryan Adams that I love. I thought Rock N Roll was a great album so I was really happy hearing “Breakdown”. The chorus has an instantly catchy hook. Excellent tune. Here is a live clip:
- Dear Candy: Adams slows it down for the 2nd tune on III, but his vocals and the Cardinals backgrounds make the song pop.
- Wasteland: The song starts a little off-tune clunky (intentionally), a technique that Adams employees a few times on this project. After the rough start, he opens the song wide with a massive chorus.
- Ultraviolet Light: The Cardinals have revisited the concepts of light and darkness several times in their body of work—all of them are excellent and this tune is a fine example. Some reviewers have mentioned a Smiths homage, I can hear it, but it isn’t overt, this song sounds like a logical successor to some of the tunes on Love is Hell
- Stop Playing with my Heart: Straight up band-focused rock and roll tune. Simple and easy to listen to.
- Lovely and Blue: In the week listening to the album, this song has become my favorite on III. I love the vocals, the straight rock, and Popper’s background vocals.
- Happy Birthday: Sad Bastard Ryan Adams at his finest.
- Kisses Start Wars: Adams and the Cardinals exploring some of their punk preferences. This song doesn’t go as deep into the punk as some of the tunes on IV and the chorus softens up with operatic vocals, providing an interesting balance.
- The Crystal Skull: This is another favorite because I like when Adams tells a story (like Strawberry Wine). When I first saw the track list, I thought it was going to be some riff on the last Indiana Jones movie (its not that far fetched).
- Users: This tune has very 80s vibe musically (which is surprisingly welcome for me). Lyrically, the song has a darker theme, but isn’t that the best when the masses are mindlessly singing along to some crazy shit?
OVERALL THOUGHTS: I really liked “III”: It has three songs that I would put in my Ryan Adams “best of” playlist. I like the pacing, production, and overall effect that the album gives off. I don’t know if it was intentional, but I feel like the 10 songs tell an overall story in a subtle way. I read a review last week that said this was the better of the two since it was so “cohesive”, and while I agree with the reviewers comments, IV’s chaos really peaked my interest….
- No: Like Breakdown on III, IV starts off with a delightfully crunchy song. No is a little more bleak, but the repetitive chorus “Something is wrong” is somehow bright and sucks you into sing-a-long mode.
- Numbers: This song is nuts and I love it. Starts off full punk and then slows down and gets really melodic. I have mentioned Catherine Popper being my long standing music crush, so I really liked that she was featured vocally on the song (she has an awesome salt and honey voice – kinda like when Sheryl Crow was still Sheryl Crow).
- Gracie: This one also has a twist of 80s but more wistful, so it isn’t too sweet. This song could get overlooked in the mayhem of IV, but don’t because it is a gem.
- Ice-Breakers: Heavy rock/punk tune. Starts off with a bit of stank, but mixes in a little sweetness during the chorus with great harmonies with the Cardinals to make it go down easier.
- Sewers at the Bottom of the Wishing Well: This is another great Cardinal showpiece where Adams steps back and lets the band shine (background vocals and musically)
- Typecast: Who doesn’t love Ryan Adam duets with Norah Jones? Great analogies in the song; clever writing that demonstrates Adams lyrical prowess. The binary stars line is fucking brilliant.
- Star Wars: I thought this song was going to be about the movies (who knows, maybe it is, no direct references that I picked out), but it wasn’t anything I was expecting… it starts of straight pop-rock and then breaks down into echoing chant about star wars. This song is random, light, and totally enjoyable.
- My Favorite Song: A little slower, this song allows the listener to catch their breath. It kind of has a Replacements vibe to it, but with more polish. Yet another tune that has excellent harmonies with the rest of the band.
- P.S.: Straight up rock anthem. Bright mixed with classic Adams lament.
- Death and Rats: Crazy title where you would expect something hard, but this tune is soft and down right romantic.
- Kill the Lights: IV has a fitting end as it incorporates a few running themes both lyrically and musically: Yet another lights reference, it has that stanky crunch start, keeps the rock pumping, and allows the whole Cardinals band to shine. A very solid way to end this effort
OVERALL THOUGHTS: I love the randomness of IV. I like the sounds and themes explored. While III might be an easier pill to swallow for normal music fans, Cardinal fans will appreciate Adams exposing his eclectic tastes—I personally feel that is when he is his most brilliant.
This is a Ryan Adams album and I am fan: so there is no point in bullshitting you with half-hearted critiques. By taking you through each song, I hope I can lend you some of my enthusiasm for a musician/band that I think is one of best of the current generation. This album proves that Ryan and his associates never half-ass the musical process by writing the same fluff over and over. Every album is completely different and I respect and appreciate that because it is not the safe thing to do.
You can listen to a full stream of the album on Paxam (not sure how long it will be up)