To say the least I wasn't expecting this album. After having heard all three of Adams' prior releases, I was expecting more of the same (and planning to enjoy it). Rock n Roll
is a complete change of pace, as the title suggests. There were songs on Gold
that hinted at his alternate inspirations, but rather than being a tribute to Bob Dylan or Van Morrison, Rock n Roll echoes bands as diverse as the Smiths and New York Dolls (not that different in and of themselves if you consider Morrissey, I suppose). Adams certainly does wear his influences on his sleeve, and doesn't attempt to hide it.
Rock n Roll could be called a satirical record if you consider the titles alone, but seeing as Adams is trying to make a true "rock and roll" record, it doesn't quite fit. The titles seem to be more tributary than parodistic, harking back to influences such as Pink Floyd ("Wish You Were Here"), the Beatles/Shirelles ("Boys"), and the oddly placed Strokes reference on "This is It" which is the easiest defence for the satirical title argument.
Rock n Roll
is another one of those modern records where the influence is evident, but doesn't feel like a copy. The Smiths influence on "Anybody Wanna Take Me Home" is noticeable, but it seems more like the spirit of the Smiths is felt than an actual musical imitation. Adams modernises his influences enough that it doesn't feel like a weak band trying to cash in on trendy influences.
But Rock n Roll
still isn't a great record. It's meandering (and yes I'm aware that only the odd song is over four minutes in length). It just feels disconnected. Too many different sounds not enough consistency (which sounds odd to say, as the songs aren't all that different from each other).
It seems like a great concept album. The history of Rock and Roll, in one CD. The titles are there, the music styles are there. But the songs themselves aren't anything special. It might be Adams' biggest problem. He's a prolific songwriter, he releases an overwhelming amount of material. But it often feels as though he releases material before it's ready. If he had laboured over Rock n Roll
, we definitely would have received a different product. Would it have been any better? We'll never know.
I've given this album 2.5. 3 might have been more appropriate, but I've had over a year to consider the merits of this album, and it's just below average. For all this album could be, he just doesn't quite pull it off.
So Alive - The lead single off the album, this strikes me as one of the best alternative songs he's ever recorded. Not as good as his alt-country material, but solid enough.
Anybody Wanna Take Me Home - If you have Love is Hell
, you are already familiar with an extended version of this song. One of the standout tracks here (at least for me), it has a similar enough sound to So Alive. Possibly why I like it.
Rock n Roll - Despite being the title track, it is funnily enough the antithesis of stereotypical loud, brash rock music. A dispirited take on life as a rock star, it is both lyrical and musically simplistic but also honest and depressing. A precursor to Love is Hell
if I've ever seen one.