There’s a bit of a statement behind a self titled album. For many young unknowns the self titled first release is one part album two parts manifesto. Take The Doors, Bob Dylan, or Violent Femmes, all were making a statement with their first release about who they were and what they were trying to do. For past Whiskeytown/Cardinals country rocker Ryan Adams though, the implications of a self titled album are a bit more mysterious.
Ryan Adams has always had an introspective bent to his lyrics. Indeed, the alt country crowd originally fell in love with Adams after the release of his first solo record. Heartbreaker was a dirge country masterpiece. A whiskey drenched, self-neglecting, drear-parade wallowing that stuck with you like a black eye after picking the wrong fight over a no good girl. From the ecstatic, high flying drunken night revelry to the spoilt milk dawn of cold mornings with mixed emotions about a heart still beating one wonders which was better: the happy songs or the sad songs?
Answer: Trick question! There were no happy songs on Heartbreaker. Now, 14 albums and an equal number of odd years later there are still no happy songs. But we know well this Ryan Adams and the sad bastard persona is growing exceedingly thin. Before the needle ever touched the groove there was a thin sliver of hope this album would be the reinvention of Ryan Adams.
Sadly, we were wrong.
The self titled record isn’t necessarily a poor product. Indeed over the course of the 11 tracks we find solid, mid-tempo numbers that work to fill the silence up nicely. It is a fine record to play at the office, one needn’t fear offending anyone with this offer, but it decidedly lacks inspiration. Lead in “Gimme Something Good,” just screams to be parroted back to the artist. Unfortunately that demand goes unanswered over the course of the ten remaining songs.
Perhaps the point of this record, the very reason for the self title is that Ryan Adams is still trying to figure himself out. Perhaps the stability of matrimony and commercial success has left Mr. Adams adrift in unknown territory. Certainly no one would be so crass as to imply they long for him to jump gleefully from the wagon back into the warm, forgiving arms of drugs and drink, but one cannot deny there is a lack of passion for this most recent work.
The prolific song-writer shows his age in the meandering inclusions on this record. It’s also harder to believe the love-lorn message contained within certain songs. Equally, the self titled breaks little ground in format or execution. We’ve forgiving Adams in the past, he rebounded nicely from that awkward Robin Hood ballad, and you can bet we’ll be more than forgiving with the titular Ryan Adams.