Don’t let the title fool you. [a]Ryan Adams[/a] wants you to think that ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll’ is a joke LP constructed like a mirror turned with affection and awe on his record collection rather than the heavy duty emotional narcissism he’s famous for.
And on the face of it, that’s just what ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll’ delivers – an uproarious set of rock songs that audaciously ape the styles of several of his current iPod icons. Opener ‘This Is It’ is all-too-obviously his [a]Strokes[/a] pastiche, ‘Shallow’ is [a]Oasis[/a]’ ‘Cigarettes And Alcohol’ revisited, ‘So Alive’ wouldn’t go amiss on the next [a]U2[/a] LP, ‘Note To Self: Don’t Die’ is pure Cobain, ‘Anybody Wanna Take Me Home’ is what [a]Smiths[/a] would sound like if Moz and Marr kissed and made up. And on and on it goes and it’s mostly great but…
‘Rock ‘N’ Roll’ is one glorious act of self-deception. Though he’d like to look into the mirror of this record and see big, dumb, Fame Academy fun, he can’t avoid the frightened kid lurking behind all the costume changes and geetar poses. [I]”I used to be sad, now I’m just bored with you”[/I] he sings on ‘Burning Photographs’, and you realise that he may be playing to the crowd but he’s singing to himself.
Almost every song tells the same story – Adams is master of any musical style he likes but he’s still stuck with a bleeding heart persona that he’s embarrassed by and, he suspects, we’ve grown w(e)ary of.
He just doesn’t know what to do with himself so he parades all the trad rock potentials – [I]”If could have my way, I’d take some drugs and we’d smile” (‘Wish You Were Here’), “If I had a car, I’d drive straight off a bridge into the river and put an end to me”[/I] (‘Burning Photographs’) – and they all come up wanting; just more romantic poses for his ego to flaunt.
[I]”Let me sing a song for you that’s never been sung before,”[/I] is the album’s first lyric and its blackest joke. The line, [I]”Note to self: just lie”[/I] is its giveaway. ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll’ is [a]Ryan Adams[/a]’ bid to escape himself – one brilliant, desperate failure that just goes to show you can hide from just about anything but you can’t avoid yourself.
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