Ryan Adams keeps things short and sweet. No, really.
As dictated by chemistry, physics and possibly string theory, Planet Earth adheres to a pretty successful system of dates and times, while Planet Ryan Adams adheres to another, more boingy one entirely; somewhere, there exists a “Good Will Hunting” equation that relates Ryan Time to Human Time, and I’m guessing it’s more or less close to dog years.
Adams himself may be entertaining—and oddly reaonable—in arguing for such eruptive output, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s solely responsible for his maddening-bordering-on-comical inconsistency, and made it so that it’s hard to receive word of a new disc without resorting to the blog equivalent of Catskills-comic jokes. For instance, I’ve made like nine lame ones, and it’s only the second paragraph.
But the most surprising thing about Easy Tiger, Adams’s 423rd record, is how much of a base-hit up the middle it is; this is some of his most professional-sounding, accesssible and brightly rewarding stuff since Gold, the Ryan Adams Album For People Who Don’t Have Time For All This Other Shit.
Recorded with his Cardinals but billed as a solo joint, Easy Tiger finds Adams at his most effortlessly consistent, and for whatever reason and in a fact that frustrates his detractors, Adams as Just Fine is still better than many of his compatriots, which must drive them completely insane. Say this for the man, sure, he’s got a history of playing 45s during his concerts and abandon the stage to grab a beer at the bar, but he sure can knock out these country hooks and choruses like he’s walking in his sleep.
Easy Tiger keeps things short and sweet; the longest track here clocks in at 4:11 and most are two or three minutes, which amplifies their punch considerably.
The gorgeous opener “Goodnight Rose” finds Ryan in Sweet Mode, a sympathetic shoulder espousing sunshine and patience to a woman with whom he plans to win “the whole shebang” (which concludes with a with a crashing chorus that splashes down over and over again until you can’t help but submit.) But there are moments of agreeable lightness (not quite as wacky as “Welcome to Ryan Adams.Com Motherfucker”, but still): “Halloweenhead” roars through its stomp-rock right up until Adams introduces the guitar solo with—wait for it—“Guitar solo!” Heh heh. Cool. (In “These Girls”, he talks about burning Matchbox cars in his backyard, which I didn’t know you could do, but am totally going to try).
Whatever his past messiness, Adams remains inarguably effective when he just boils away the mess. “Oh My God, Whatever, Etc.”, which is a title that argues the exact opposite point I’m making here, is but two and a half minutes of pretty piano, wispy harmony and crisp beauty. You could mess with feedback and bravado and theatrical, rock-star flame-out, or you could slip out little twinkling gems like “These girls are all better off in my head,” and bring in Springsteen’s “This Hard Land” harmonica on a pretty lament called “I Taught Myself How to Grow Old.”
Easy Tiger is front-loaded, natch, and there’s some material for the threatened box-set on Side 2. On the whole, in fact, Easy Tiger is brisk and bright, and damned if Adams doesn’t sound comfortable just being Ryan Adams for a minute.