Monday, February 09, 2009

Ryan Bratty Adams and the problem with music journalism

Fuck journalism, man. Well, not really. I still have lots of love... but all the music journalism I consume has got to have some ill consequences, right?

I always seem to tell people about the way I got into Oasis. I seem to always have to preface it --defend it-- with, "Well, I HATED them at first." That's not entirely true. I liked "Live Forever"--which was the very first Oasis song I ever heard. I even saw 'em do it on Letterman. Then, since I was bout it, bout it for all Brit mags, I was hit with the barrage of infamous quotations from the Gallagher brothers. My take on them, like many other observers, was: these lads are fucking wankers. So full of shit, soooo arrogant! It was maddening. It was enough to make myself close-minded and resist the pleasures of the Oasis sound until my dad made me realize that the boys could write some damn fine rock anthems. It's funny, because, although my dad got me into a lot of the rock base...(the brit bands, etc.), it took his insistence for me to get into something that should've been a no-brainer for me. (British, young, brash and loved the Sex Pistols? My dad does not care for the Sex Pistols, or any punk at all.) In fact, it was the linking to the Pistols that made me understand and accept the Gallagher brothers' attitude.

So it went with one young, brash, arrogant Ryan Adams. I was inundated (again, my own fault--can't stop!) with negative, obnoxious press about the kid before I heard one note of music. Especially his infamous, bratty on-stage breakdowns and diva drug dramas. I tried to distance myself from him and his music.

I remember waking up from a jet lag nap in London (Catu and I were visiting Racho..this is 2002, mind you) and seeing Adams' album Gold. The beautiful Irish flatmate of Racho's (goddammit, can't remember her name, now) was playing Achtung Baby. And all I could think was, areyoufuckingkiddingme? Irish chick plays U2 whist cooking dinner in her London flat and I'm here right now? wtf. But, Gold was sitting there. I thought, damn, he's huge, isn't he? People just adore his music. Maybe I should finally give him a chance. But, no. I was still so turned off by everything I had heard about him -- and it was a lot of shit, too (remember what Westerberg said?). And, really, that album cover!? Upside down American flag...come. on.

OK, so I realize how *shallow* it sounds-- to base my judgement on poor Ryan Adams on the bullshit and not the music. Well, I had heard the music...and I was drawn to it...a bit.

"Burning Photographs" (off of Rock'n'Roll) is something that I couldn't resist, even though you could say that it was slightly overplayed in the radio world (not exactly true, but I head it more than any other Ryan Adams song...besides "Stars Go Blue," but it wasn't even his version that I heard). That song and "New York, New York," from Gold were both very familiar to me, but not enough for me to investigate his music any further. It took an extremely random moment of catching the beginning of the movie, "Old School," (a Will Farrell vehicle....?) and his song off of "Heartbreaker"** called "To Be Young..." and I knew I had to give the music a chance. It was such a perfect song. I dug how raw and 60's (albeit very Bob Dylan of him) it sounded old and new and I didn't know it was Adams...but I did. I figured it must be him. All the ("whooo, man!"s...) old slang, man. From what I knew of him, it fit.

I saw him in December, opening for (who else!?) Oasis! He didn't say a damn word. He shut up and sang and played (how many fans had shouted that demand, I wonder, over the years...?) His set was varied and entertaining, if not low-key. One of the most impressive things about Adams is how much he can change his voice and his persona and his genre and still make it work. It's almost disarming how he can alter his sound--but it's a beautiful thing (Neil Young is the master of this, for me, of course). Sometimes he is too sad-bastard for me. Sometimes the harmonica is overused. But I am liking him more and more. (Alicia, I have you to thank very much for all of this, too!) The man is talented. Interviews with him lately have been very intriguing (lots of press of late, with the release of Cardinology). (Like learning that Gold is simply about the making of Heartbreaker, essentially. makes total sense. they are companion pieces.) He's supposedly sober (after years of alcohol abuse and doing fucking speedballs everyday. yuck.) and working with Phil Lesh a few years ago apparently changed his life--musically and otherwise. In interviews, nowadays, he comes across as a manic, passionate, eccentric total musichead nerd. I love it. And he calls his older (drugged and drunken) self an "asshole" and "prick" and says he used to be "full of shit." So, I guess I was right...

**I just read this: (from Rolling Stone)

Not only is Adams a huge fan of the R&B singer, he named an album after a Mariah Carey cut. "My manager called and said, 'You have 15 seconds to name this record,'" he says. "My eyes focused on this poster of Mariah wearing a T-shirt that said HEARTBREAKER. I just shouted, 'Heartbreaker!' Daydream is one of my most played records. People need to reinvestigate Glitter. I'm settled enough in my masculinity to say I don't see anything wrong with Glitter."

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