Wednesday, January 21, 2009

No.2 - Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams is, and has always been, a man in a hurry. Christened David Ryan Adams, he became known by his second name, which led to inevitable confusion with the similarly named Canadian singer (of whom more later!).

Whiskeytown was his first band, a county-rock outfit. They attempted to mix Gram Parsons and the Replacements. Two somewhat overrated outfits. Unfortunately for them, country music has never really been any good. It is one of the most reductive, backward sounding 'genres' of music there is. Nevertheless, although being a country album, their debut - Faithless Street showed some promise, with some charming lyrics ('so I started this damn country band 'cos punk rock was too hard to sing' from the title track).

This was as good as it got for Whiskeytown. Their follow-up, 'Strangers Almanac' got great reviews but was inferior and began Ryan Adams' sprint towards the mainstream. The band lasted one more album before imploding and Mr. Adams took the well-trodden 'solo artist' path.

'Heartbreaker', his first solo album got him his best reviews of his career. Not a bad album, though (like much of his early output) overrated. In his wisdom, he followed this up with an unashamedly mainstream rock/pop album, 'Gold', where he posed on the cover with the American flag a la Bruce Springsteen, and began fraternising with cutting edge artists like Elton John and Alanis Morrissette.

Much of what has followed has been an interesting mess. He has flitted from one style to another, straight-ahead rock ('Rock N Roll'), Smiths-style mope-rock ('Love Is Hell'), back to country ('Cold Roses' / 'Jacksonville City Nights'), singer-songwriter angst ('29') before settling on middle of the road, vaguely countrified soft-rock ('Easy Tiger' / 'Cardinology'). All the while keeping himself in the public eye through dalliances with somewhat well-known women (though none of whose identities spring to mind right now), 'accidents' involving falling off stage and breaking his arm, reports of substance abuse and on-stage tantrums.

Many of these tantrums were driven by fans shouting out requests for 'Summer of '69' by Bryan Adams. To which he sulked. Wouldn't it have been easier to make light of it? It's no more cheesy than some of his own hokey country songs ('Desperate Ain't Lonely') or 'rock' songs ('Halloweenhead').

His latest publicity stunt is that he is talking about retiring from music. He might be better advised to stop giving interviews, stop falling out with his record company (as he did with Lost Highway who have refused to release some of his albums), and definitely to stop releasing so much music. How is any fan supposed to avoid overload? In 2005 he released 3 albums in 3 months. God knows how many other unreleased albums lie in the vault.

Just slow down Ryan. You don't have to burn out, in the words of Neil Young.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Concert Review: Greg Dulli / Mark Lanegan - Dublin Academy Jan 2009

Digressing from the 'cowpat theme', think it's important to review this gig, I've reviewed every other Lanegan gig I've been to (posted on

When we bought tickets for this gig it was a Gutter Twins gig, but subsequently changed to an evening with Greg Dulli & Mark Lanegan. Arrived at the venue to find that it was an all seater gig. And all the seats were taken! Never mind, got a space at the bar. Mark and Greg came on early, just after 8.30. Greg alternated between guitar and keyboard, and they were joined by another guitarist. They began with 3 or 4 Gutter Twins songs, considerably reworked to suit the format of the gig. Greg was the more vocal but Mark did speak on occasion, notably when the somebody in the quite vocal crowd shouted 'give him a kiss', Greg said 'did we kiss?' and Mark replied 'apparently'. Had never seen Mark sit down at a gig before, he didn't really know what to do with his hands without a mike stand to hold!

As the gig progressed they played songs from each others' back catalogues, mainly Twilight Singers and Lanegan solo tracks. Greg was goading Mark to play Screaming Trees songs, but it didn't happen. None the less he covered tracks from Bubblegum, Field Songs, I'll Take Care of you and even as far back as Whiskey for the Holy Ghost. They also played a couple of covers which I didn't recognise, sounded like some old folk songs. Greg looks a little like Elvis in his Vegas period in terms of size.

After a short encore with 2 songs, then a cover of 'All I have to do is dream' they were gone by 9.55. A little short! Lanegan was in fine voice but I think this collaboration has run its course.

Monday, January 12, 2009

No.1 - Sonic Youth

Godfathers of the NY art-rock scene? Or just a bunch of over-age rockers who infest the mildest of melodies with ear-splitting noise? I mean what is it with the noise? They are perfectly well able to crank out serviceable 'indie/alternative' melodies but then poison them with feedback. There's nothing wrong with a bit of noise used in the appropriate manner. Jesus and Mary Chain have feedback as an integral part of the songs (hmm... or do they? maybe a future sacred cowpat?). It's scarcely believable that these guys appear to be as 'cool' as they are. All the bands they reference are either unheard of or unlistenable to. I bet Thurston and Kim listen to the Eagles at home.

What's worse is the Sonic Youth fans. They all despise the prettier, easier-to-listen-to SY songs, typified by their last album, Rather Ripped, which junked the 7-minute long, punctuated by quiet bits, then loud screechy bits SY template in favour just really good, catchy tunes. In general their last 3 albums (Murray St, Sonic Nurse and Rather Ripped) are a lot easier to listen to right through than their so-called seminal albums (Sister, Daydream Nation, Goo)

Don't get me wrong, I like a bit self-important, pretentious twaddle as much as anyone. But albums really ought to be enjoyable to listen to. I defy anybody to listen to their most revered-album Daydream Nation right through. Sure Teenage Riot is a class song, but Providence? What were they thinking? It's a real nothing, just a machine hum all they way through. I think it was meant as a joke but there are very few incidences of 'musical jokes' that are actually funny. Email any you can think of to - if you find any. They are fond of extended guitar workouts within songs - not very punk - though the majority of those are tedious in the extreme. A friend of mine said many years ago that Sonic Youth sound like 'they have their heads up their holes'. Unfair? Perhaps.

Then there is the Kim issue. Undoubtedly a cool looking lady, and a good musician. But just don't give her any songs to sing. The results are never pretty. Though 25 years down the line, she is learning (her contributions to Rather Ripped are actually good to listen to), she has shrieked her way through dozens of painful songs over the years.

And as for their collaborative projects, 2 words: Don't. Bother. Kim's contribution to the 'Hidros' thing with Mats Gustafsson is one of the most irritating things I've heard in a long time. And I paid €20 for it!

Sonic Youth are in their fifties now and still look cool, and tick all the 'cool' boxes: listen to the 'right' music, read the 'right' books, films etc. If they stopped trying to be so cool and just concentrated on making music that people actually like listening to we could yet get some great music.


Hi - I've started this thing as an outlet for me to poke fun at things I hold dear, mainly music-related stuff. I've no idea how long I'll be at this for, or how often I'll update it! Any suggestions as to who should be taken down a peg or too should be sent to