Review Summary: Ryan Adams releases twenty one "new" songs, the world continues to spin.
Ryan Adams has an enviable creative drive, to put it mildly. Thirteen studio albums in ten years, three in 2005 alone, not to mention three records with his previous band Whiskeytown and countless EPs and side recordings, some slightly better regarded than others. Adams could probably take a *** and come up with a gem of a pop hook, but Adams seems to lack that which most of us were blessed with at birth: bowel control. Take his earlier 2010 release Orion
, which Adams characterized as a “fully-realized sci-fi metal concept album” and which was, coincidentally, absolutely terrible. Aside from that, Adams’ has been strangely quiet the past couple of years until III/IV
, which, being a lump sum of demos from the same sessions as 2007’s Easy Tiger
, can’t even really be considered new material. And, of course, it’s a double album clocking in at over an hour. Even Adams’ storage closet demos don’t know when to shut up.
Unlike Easy Tiger
, which showed off Adams’ bland adult contemporary side more often than not, III/IV
takes a page out of 2003’s Rock N Roll
, although not as blatantly plagiarized as that record tended to be. Another difference from that straightforward genre exercise, happily enough, is that III/IV
, for all its self-indulgent length, actually contains more diamonds than turds (for my own sake I’m not counting the extra seventeen bonus tracks/demos available online). For all of Adams’ bull and lack of an editor, anyone familiar with his discography can tell that, aside from being a great songwriter more often than not, Adams’ never just throws something together and calls it a day; each song here shows care and a delicate craft; even the seemingly-tossed off “Stop Playing With My Heart” shows a firm grasp of melody and a hook lesser artists would kill for. The ace musicianship of the Cardinals helps, refining the alt-rock framework here and occasionally adding a unique touch as Catherine Popper does with her vocal work on “Numbers.”
Of course, most of III/IV
come off as what you’d expect; a massive talent messing around in the studio and crafting some perfectly serviceable rock tunes. It’s the oddballs here that make III/IV
a success: the Love Is Hell
flashback on “Ultraviolet Light;” the strangely charming pop of “Star Wars;” the anthemic “No,” which proves that Adams can still write a killer chorus with the best of them. Then something like “Icebreaker” will come up, an aspiring metal effort that quickly turns into an accidental gag. It’s what we’ve come to expect from Adams, a smattering of bad amongst a general sea of good, sprinkled with some truly fantastic songs as if Adams almost forgot to add those as he was walking out the studio door. III/IV
isn’t anything amazing, but it is something to enjoy no doubt as it was intended, as a guileless rock ‘n roll record, just some songs Adams wants us to hear. Indeed, the best part about III/IV
is just how it whets the appetite for future releases, maybe one where Adams doesn’t *** around quite as much and focuses for a solid ten or eleven songs. Hey, a fan can dream.