I would rather be ashes than dust!The Canadian and his Carolinian acolyte seem to believe it's their fundamental right to not merely exist and rock stardom is their vehicle to evade the Mass, the mundane and The Rust that dulled the nerve of their colleagues/progenitors [Young vs. CSN]. Still, Adams, no matter his coronation, mayn't be the times' sonic superman par excellence [indeed, being the unwitting student of London and canny idolater of Jagger-Richards serves the assumption of a poisonous form of white male agency that undermines all misguided (if fascinating) Americana masterworks --- that of the tough, individual loner against society and nature. Could the glimmer of this indicate what's repellent about the young twang Turk's body of work? Since Adams has been anointed by Sir Elton John, he ought to take a tip from one of the albums that made the latter's reputation: the Laurel Canyon country-rock aristocracy that Adams emulates mostly retreated into their "honky chateaux" when the upheavals of the '60s transformed the country too drastically and their own amorality caused them to punk out on all the change they set out to undertake (sorry, ain't Gil Scott-Heron up in this mug). Definitely expected more color from someone who has benefited from three hundred plus years of American musical tradition. If only Gold were as brilliant as one of the top ten Americana albums ever: the Isley Brothers' Givin' It Back (T-Neck/Epic, 1971). Ron Isley's performance of Dylan's "Lay, Lady, Lay" and the masterpieces of Stills "Love the One You're With" and "Ohio/Machine Gun" demonstrate how to effectively place one's own stamp on the material of one's peers]. Somewhere during Adams' performance, the Young instrumental, "The Emperor of Wyoming" from the eponymous debut, came to mind. "The Emperor", string-drenched country MOR, is a deceptively mild introduction to Young's solo career. It always seemed to suggest a succinct, tongue-in-cheek, Kane-esque portrait of some amoral and spiritually void rancher baron. Ryan Adams reveals himself to these ears as the present rock milieu avatar of Young's Emperor. An elusive hollowness at the bottom of his work may mean that --- fever pitch hype notwithstanding --- Adams also wears no clothes. Spinning "whimsical" ditties about Celine Dion ruining your buzz as you simultaneously watch television and smoke pot doesn't raise your Olympian profile much. At Roseland, he alternately shambled and strutted behind a shock of artfully unruly hair, armed with ace five-piece band the Sweetheart Revolution (featuring ex-Dylan sideman Bucky Baxter & Adams doppelganger Billy Mercer on bass) who are aiding his move out of the Alt-Country ghetto into the rock 'n roll primetime. Gary Louris and (RA nemesis) Jeff Tweedy have appeared to attempt this move before him but Adams, gaining mainstream notice at a time when the Black Crowes --- who've pretty much had a lock on the purist rock throne for the last decade --- are conveniently on hiatus, seems poised for success. The self-indulgence --- constantly playing with his back to the audience, drastically dimmed lighting, self-referential inter-song patter, impersonating the Lizard King, proving he's mastered the Ron Wood technique of keeping one's cigarette in the neck of one's guitar mid-play, taking the stage to the theme from Star Wars --- and erratic character of his long show suggested a Brat Prince who sees no rivals in the field. He has one, unacknowledged, in the form of Marah's Dave Bielanko. Bielanko is of an age with Adams, also regionally identified, an Alt-Country refugee, and palpably haunted by rock icons --- Springsteen, primarily, in Bielanko's case. Certainly, Marah's front man seethes with self-regard and rawk energy but he's figured out how to distill the essence of his heroes' work and produce songs that are indelibly from a very real place. The feat of Dave Bielanko tunes such as "Faraway You" or "My Heart Is the Bums in the Street" is that they paint a grounded portrait of the artist as a young man while boasting a radio-ready accessibility. "Tina Toledo's Street Walkin' Blues", the hard rawkinest song performed at Roseland (as opposed to "Nobody Girl" rendered as a long droning, dirge), positioned Adams as an acolyte whose entire quest is to wrest a place in the track sequence of Exile On Main Street. On "Answering Bell", "New York, New York", "To Be Young (is to be sad, is to be high)" and others, Adams comes off too clever by half and cunning enough to obfuscate any entrée to the work that might reveal some vulnerable part of the flawed yet beautiful human being behind the mask of the boy wonder. The kid sports more masks than turn of the last century Negroes, as poetically rendered by Paul Laurence Dunbar. I don't know whom Ryan Adams is thus I cannot respond well to his art. This is not the clueless, non-songwriting critic being needlessly harsh: in his own song, "Vampire", he sings, "I'm a fake and I'm a liar". Sarcasm or self-revelation? His girlfriend may be the one who counts Diana Ross as kin but Adams' songs bring to mind P.Diddy, who never met a sample he didn't like (perhaps most famously, The (other) Boss' "I'm Comin' Out" employed as hook in "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems"). Diddy's use of Ross to lucrative effect in that hit mirrors Adams' almost slavish reenactment of his roots rock forbears' aesthetic highlights. But "please, please don't judge [him] too strong", to quote Funkadelic Perhaps it's a sign of the times, this will to appropriate the music of yore wholesale with little mediation. When Diddy and his ilk can get away with biting songs in their entirety without public hue and cry, why should anyone actually bother to write songs? Probably no one knows how to write rock songs anymore. The jukebox quilting must be emblematic of the millennial project. Chances are, Adams could also be afraid of the Mount Rushmore of Cosmic Americana, as well as the genre's cousins and antecedents; he certainly mauled his cover of Parsons' "A Song for You" on Emmylou Harris' tribute project. That's quite a burden for any anointed youth to bear. Maybe in the 2000s, when every artistic idea under the sun has already been essayed, rock is in its 50s and one of the leading singer-songwriters of the era is a pretend-thug like Dr. Dre (imagine "Dre Day" going toe-to-toe with Mitchell's "People's Parties"), the lot left to the more talented and prescient musicians is to mimic a mix master in the vein of Grandmaster Flash. Meanwhile, Ryan Adams' desire to win the love of the People whilst simultaneously holding himself aloof from them with condescension (at least in the venues . . . although accounts of how he meets the press are not promising) bodes ill --- for his aspirations and for the audience's hope for the Ascension of a Savior of Rock.
I would rather that my spark burn out in a brilliant blaze
Than it should be stifled by dry rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.
As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.
Keep reading... Show less
This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.
It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.
Keep reading... Show less
best music of 2017 shoegaze dream pop slowdive ride deafcult lowly froth panda riot fazerdaze jefre cantu-ledesma blankenberge the stargazer lilies airiel the telescopes
The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)
Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.
"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"
Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.
Keep reading... Show less
irish republican army jez butterworth performance-oriented the troubles drama sam mendes tragedy rob howell sonia friedman peter mumford black comedy thriller rosalie craig owen mcdonnell justin edwards the ferryman
Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.
Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.
Keep reading... Show less
There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.
There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."
Keep reading... Show less
17th-century england margaret willes samuel pepys john evelyn biography literature intellectual history empiricism scientific revolution royal society restoration england
Collapse Expand Pop Ten
Collapse Expand Mixed Media