Lost in Translation (2003) | Main | More Housekeeping

November 4, 2003

Shill yr idols

Posted by Phil on November 4, 2003 11:52 AM

Ryan Adams is my last rock star. I've had it, and I'm not having any more. I'm so jealous of him I want to fucking kill myself. And it's not like he's even all that cool. He isn't; he knows he isn't. Which, of course, makes him. He's a flake and a genius and he tries too hard on too many songs to sound raspy and Bad--instead of writing a decent chorus, half the time--but it's all an inversion, the dog chasing its tail--he knows he's not that Bad, he knows you know he's trying too hard--or not hard enough, sometimes, but if the rest of the song's cool, or some of it, who needs a real chorus?--which brings us to a new plateau of "fuck you if you say I can't I know I can't but I am fuck you." Which, of course, is 90% of the deal right there.

Beat happened, Elvis happened, rock and roll happened, DylanBeatlesStonesWoodstockAltamont happened, punk happened, metal happened, post-punk happened, indie-college-alterna-shit happened (whoops, everybody missed that), rap happened, Kurt happened, Eddie happened, alt.country sorta happened, then ... the dog's been chasing its tail for a long time, and guys like Beck and Ryan Adams put out peripheral albums without putting out a "real" album--that's his "this" album, this is his "that" album--but it's OK because what is it anymore, anyway? Does Ryan Adams sum it up? Can anyone? What is it? The most exciting music of the past five years has been put out by Swedish guys imitating the most exciting music of the past 25 years, and nothing sounds like Now, although if Now feels like 18 years ago--foreign threats, no safety net, death from above---it might as well sound like it, too, especially since Rock History didn't acknowledge it the first time, too busy with Prince and Michael and Bruce and the umpteenth coming of the Rolling Stones, who were the last ones, really, 30 years ago, 10 years after forming, to tie it all up and matter, too, before everything splintered--Vietnam, Nixon, urban despair, Sonny & Cher, game show disco ball car wash subway leg warmer boom bust boom bust new wave coke pot crack pot handgun drive-by and a big fuck YOU, motherfucker.

I mean, what a mess. It seems impossible now that lone guitarslingers could take the stage and stir generations into tidal waves with one hand, but they could, they did, didn't they? I've read about it, anyway, and millions of accounts verify--the books get PUBLISHED, dammit, I mean, there wouldn't be PRODUCT in the CHANNEL if it wasn't true at least on some level, and it is, but only by a demographic anomoly, a population bulge precipitated, I suppose, by the entangling alliances of the European nation-states, arcane empires holding in check an onrush of human forces they ought to have constructively released but instead shortsightedly sought to contain, inevitably collapsing with unnecessary and catastrophic damage in this war, then that war--none of which HAD to happen, understand, imagine, if you can--then a frenzy of post-war fucking and a tot-glut to coddle in undreamt material luxury and raise into an AUDIENCE, the grandest the world has ever known, and canny entrepreneurs set before them a stage, and from their midst--where else?--came mighty performers whose music we hear and revere still. And fine music it was, but no finer than any before or since--it was the AUDIENCE that set it apart, the AUDIENCE whose numbers future performers would have to match, lest they be judged less worthy, lest the culture be judged less whole.

And so it is. It even knows it is. It's only music for dancing that's pulled those numbers since, and the one guy who came along and mattered and moved that many units didn't ever, ever want to, knew in fact that to do so was a betrayal of everyone like him who was sick to fucking death of the shadow of that Great Audience. So, faced with the mortal choice of getting popular or staying cool, he got hooked on drugs and shot himself. I mean, there was some other stuff wrong with him, too, but it was the choice fame forced upon him that did him in.

What he did really wasn't cool at all, by any definition, and cool is really all there is. Bruce and U2 and even R.E.M., they're more like church. Van Halen and Bon Jovi, they're more like football. Rock and roll is the exact opposite of church and football, and if that gets us past the notion that rock and roll should lead stadiums of whip-smart brothers and sisters to rise up and be their own bad-ass selves--it should, it did, but it can't, it shouldn't--then Ryan Adams is as good as anybody to be my last rock star.

I write the same essay every time I write about music and he puts out too many albums that now have to slot in more than one "genre" of "rock and roll" because the thing is just too big--this is his New Wave album, that one's Alternative Country--but what the fuck does he care? He's a rock star! Dude lives in New York City with a smart, sexy actress! Dresses like trash and smokes cigarettes! He named this album "Rock N Roll," except backwards! He tries too hard on too many songs to sound raspy and Bad, then on one song or two he's a genuine, desperate poet of love and despair, and a kickass guitar player, too. Those pictures in the booklet, with the hair damage, cheap shades, and his hot actress girlfriend--the more fucked-up and lame he acts, the cooler he is. What a dumbass. I wish I was him.


Ryan Adams formerly of Whiskeytown? And of the albums "Gold" and "Demolition?" Just trying to calibrate my iTunes Music Store search. :-)

Posted by: mph at November 4, 2003 12:43 PM

The very same. Two new albums, actually: Rock N Roll, and Love Is Hell Vol. 1. I speak here more of the former, to the extent I speak clearly at all.

Posted by: pk at November 4, 2003 1:12 PM

The most important thing about Ryan Adams is that he's sung with Miss Emmylou.

Posted by: g at November 5, 2003 8:15 AM

Criminy dude, you are getting pretty worked up about bad music! I once saw BRIAN Adams at an Amnesty International show and enjoyed him. Ryan Adams? never heard of him...

Posted by: thp at November 8, 2003 2:07 PM

PS Lemme know about any good musicians from out of the Pacific Northwest these days, especially from PDX... gracias.


Posted by: Andrea at November 8, 2003 4:09 PM

PS Lemme know about any good musicians from out of the Pacific Northwest these days, especially from PDX... gracias.


Posted by: Andrea at November 8, 2003 4:09 PM

Andrea, I like Zony Mash from Seattle. Maybe you would like to have a listen. http://www.zonymash.com/
(Sorry if they are old news - I'm not very cool.)

Posted by: Cristina at November 11, 2003 3:49 PM