As many of you know, a few months ago we paid tribute to Ryan Adams as part of our ongoing residency at Bistro de Paris. Its a monthly night, where the Hurricane and I can get together with some of our favorite local songwriters to pay tribute to the music we love. We try to dial down the local scene attitude, create a fun welcoming vibe, and put together an evening that is all about the music. Over time I have come to dub this night “Evening of the gang of losers,” since I think that Dears song perfectly sums up what our little residency has become.
Ok, so enough about the residency, and what does this all have to do with “The Importance of Being Ryan.”
May 1 2005, The Spectrum, Montreal
In my last post, The Importance of Being Ryan Part 1, I let you all in on why I think the album “Gold” is the quintessentially perfect album. Great production, great songs, and great ensemble playing from Ryan and the Band. This was an album I clung to like a boat at sea, in the immediate aftermath of a break up with my first love. I came to strongly identify with the characters in the songs, and also, I thought, with the man who had written them. When I finally got the chance to check out Ryan and the Cardinals at Metropolis in Montreal on May 1, 2005, I think I was literally expecting a fresh faced dude to walk on stage wearing an upside down American flag. What we got was a bearded, tattooed weirdo drunk that couldn’t remember his own songs. I left part way through the second ramshackle set, in a pretty confused state. Over time, however, I have come to realize that the Ryan show in question was probably one of the more intense, heartfelt performances I will ever see. Also, I think in some ways it sums of Ryan Adams the artist. Not content to simply play it cool and keep putting out Gold sound-alikes for the rest of his career, Ryan lives in a constant state of artistic transformation. What we saw on stage that night was just another manifestation of that: an artist shedding his skin.
His Best Work Since Gold!
Over the years I have always looked forward to new music by Ryan Adams, and have always been interested to hear the critical reaction. A singular theme has emerged: Ryan’s best work since Gold! His best collection of songs since Gold! Etc etc. To my ears nothing Ryan has made since Gold really sounds that much like Gold at all. Take “Rock and Roll” the follow album that pays tribute to balls out Rock and Roll and takes Iggy Pop’s production approach in “Search and Destroy” to its logical conclusion. And then there is the wonderfully cerebral double album “Love is Hell” which meanders around in a weird Smiths inspired post rock haze. Before long, Ryan formed his epic jam band the Cardinals, and went through that whole Grateful Dead obsession, going so far as to actually snatch the iconic blue Rose logo for himself. And at some point, there was also time to release a heavy metal concept album heavily indebted to local Montrealers Voivod.
Coincidentally, here is some new music from Ryan from his forthcoming self-titled album. My apologies if you don’t get Spotify yet!
Also, if you didn’t already know, Voivod’s 1988 album Dimension Hatros is one of the best albums of any genre of all time!
Neil Young, Bowie and Ryan
If there is something to take away from all of this, it is that Ryan has certainly never cared to much for being cool, or worried too much about what people thought (I can just imagine his label reps pulling out their hair to make sense of it all). And to me this is a hallmark of many of the great artists of our time. Take Neil Young, for example, who strapped on a vocoder to become the Transformer Man, or donned a pink suit to lead the Shocking Pinks. And let’s not even get started on David Bowie who played Ziggy, the Pirate and the Thin White Duke, to name only a few. This is why I will quite comfortably assert that Ryan Adams is the Neil Young of his generation, and one of our most important modern day artists.
the So Uncool Society
Awhile back on this blog, I published an early draft of the So Uncool Society’s Manifesto. In the manifesto, I described the basic tenants of the society and declared Tony Bennet to be our figure head and thought leader. I would like to go further now and add our official theme song: Rock and Roll by Ryan Adams (as covered by Andrew Johnston and the Hurricane).
I think the song speaks for itself: