[9] Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker

7 Jun

I spent a lot of times in New York City bars, specifically in the East Village, in my 20s.  This was during the early 2000s, so needless to say, every jukebox I encountered would inevitably play Ryan Adam’s 2001 hit, “New York, New York” more than once every night (usually in a set that also included David Gray’s “Babylon” and The Goo Goo Doll’s “Iris” . . .)

“New York” was so ubiquitous I ended up buying a copy of  Gold, the album that spawned it.  I believe I played it once then forgot all about it.  It wasn’t that the album was bad, just not what I was looking for and listening to at the time.

This, then, is the backgroud when I press play for the first time on Adams’ debut solo album, Heartbreaker, and unfortunately it is a familiar story that is about to unfold.

Heartbreaker

Heartbreaker

Like “New York” on Gold, the opening track of Heartbeaker – “To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)” – is an upbeat blues rocker full of jangling slacker energy.  I wonder at his apparently irony-free apeing of Bob Dylan, but am prepared to let it pass initially.

But then the rest of the album just kind of peters out, running out of steam and heat, leaving me cold.

What follows is far more downbeat and introspective than the singles – not what I was expecting or perhaps hoping for.  There is nothing *wrong* with the flowing, gentle tunes that make up most of the album, but I do not fall in love with them – they fail to affect me, and it does not appear that Adams’ pain translates.

I also fail to grasp any great historical importance that would vault this collection onto the list.

It seems to me that there are always plenty of whiny, 20-something singer songwriters to choose from.  I’d personally much rather listen, for an example, to early Billy Joel (who is criminally missing – in my opinion – from the 1,000 . . .)

Perhaps I am no longer the target audience?

If I had encountered Heartbreaker in a setting other than the context of this blog, I am certain I would have heard it once and thereafter left it on the shelf gathering dust.  I am committed, however, to go beyond a single superficial listen to each recordings, so kept the CD in rotation for weeks trying to tease out what it is that Tom Moon sees in it.

There is an irony that an album likely marketed directly at me on its release is the first one I really want to bail on so quickly.

But I do give it a more than fair shake, playing it at work, in bed, over dinner.  My wife, who disagreed with my conclusions on “Shakin’ the Rafters”, is utterly unimpressed with this album.  The pieces, looked at individually, should make for a pleasing whole – there is the Dylan energy, the Beatles psychadelia, even a cameo by country legend Emmy Lou Harris.  But for whatever reason, I just don’t seem to care.

Maybe I would have jumped all over this at the time of its release – although my reaction to the follow up album suggests otherwise.  Perhaps I don’t remember the hardships of that age; the misery, the pain, the self-absorbtion.

Maybe I just believe that Adams’ is faking, or I recall how often I was . . .

In discussing Heartbreaker, Tom Moon talks at length about the sheer quantity of material produced by Ryan Adams in the years following this album.  He suggests that there was too much, of too many different styles for people to truly appreciate, that this is the reason, perhaps, that Adams was not a bigger superstar.

And there is a precedence for this – Prince seemed to lose commercial, if not critical, steam when he started putting out triple albums, B-side collections, massive quantities of music at a rapid pace.  It was too much for even serious fans to stay on top of.   The recordings were of undeniably impressive quality, but the quantity meant parsing them was an impossible task.

However, unlike with Prince, I think the answer here is far simpler.

Ryan Adams just never lived up to his considerable hype.

Besides, whenever I hear the name Ryan Adams it just makes me want to hear another sometimes whiny, 20-something singer songwriter of my youth.

That’s right.  I like Bryan Adams.  Go ahead and judge me.

Owned before blogging?  No. (1 of 9.  11%)
Heard before blogging?   No. (2 of 9.  22%)
Recommend?                    No.  (5 of 9.  56%)

Next Week: The Cannonball Adderley Quintet – At The Lighthouse

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6 Responses to “[9] Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker”

  1. nycavri December 15, 2014 at 8:19 AM #

    Reblogged this on . . . To Hear Before I Blog and commented:

    Throughout December I am going to revisit the first months of this journey, taking time at the end of this year to remember where I’ve been and what I’ve heard.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Bloodshot’s “Heartbreaker” fire sale | LoseringBook - June 8, 2013

    […] (6/7/13): A dissenting view of […]

  2. [71] Beck – Mutations | . . . To Hear Before I Blog - August 15, 2014

    […] It is interesting and accomplished, but doesn’t fit neatly into my musical narrative.  Like Ryan Adams before, I am not now (and may never have been) the target audience, don’t have the history […]

  3. [113] Bonnie “Prince” Billy – I See A Darkness | . . . To Hear Before I Blog - June 5, 2015

    […] Everything about this should turn me off – the artist recording under multiple names, the ugly and offputting album cover, even the era it comes from.  I had very definite opinions on the music of this era, had pinned my flag quite vocally and visibly to the glam scene that was all but eradicated by the rise of grunge and later of whiny, 20-something singer-songwriters. […]

  4. [128] Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning | . . . To Hear Before I Blog - September 18, 2015

    […] . . Wide Awake has that folk-rocking Americana sound that critics – including Moon (see Ryan Adams) – seem to love so much and which tends to leave me cold (see Ryan […]

  5. [151] The Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man | . . . To Hear Before I Blog - March 4, 2016

    […] friends with those few people who are still with me after failing to recommend Pet Sounds and Heartbreaker . . […]

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