Deeply disappointing follow-up to Gold, Uncut's 2001 album of the year
Of course, the album every true Ryanista wants to hear is Love Is Hell, which Lost Highway famously refused to release. According to Ryan, they thought it was too dark and depressing to put out as the official follow-up to Gold and it will now apparently surface as two EPs?or whatever the CD equivalent is. Meanwhile, here’s Rock’n’Roll, perhaps the most inappropriately-titled album since The Best Of Sting.
If this quite unnecessary record was full of the kind of rock’n’roll that inspired Ryan in Whiskeytown (the Burritos and Replacements to the fore), it would have had something major going for it. Alas and fucking alack, however, a better title would have been Heavy Metal Power Pop or Eighties Radio Rock Regrettably Revisited. Produced with brutal insensitivity by Jim Barber, Rock’n’Roll is awash with echoes of ’80s stadium rock?The Police, U2, Simple Minds. Blustery guitar anthems, that is, alongside chunks of endless boogie riffing that leaves this listener, at least, baffled and disappointed.
I don’t know if Ryan recorded this with a gun to his head, but he certainly sounds like he’s under some duress. How else to explain the fraught atmosphere surrounding barely-written songs like “She’s Lost Total Control” and the crude “Do Miss America”? And what’s with all the shouting? Adams has one of the most sweetly wracked voices in contemporary music and for anyone who’d plump every time for the likes of “Oh My Sweet Carolina” over a pouty Stones pastiche like “Tina Toledo’s Street Walking Blues”, sadly large swathes of Rock’n’Roll are largely unlistenable, Ryan sounding like he’s swallowed a foghorn on the brash, Oasis-derived “Shallow”, Alice Cooper with his tongue in a knot on “1974” and self-pitying ninny on “Anybody Wanna Take Me Home?”
The entire album is, in fact, so steeped in a sort of shellsuit musical naffness, you half expect Stuart Maconie to pop up to regale us with some pointless frivolity, as he does on those listy TV pop shows about crap music to which Rock’n’Roll sounds like a perfect soundtrack. The only exception to the album’s dull-witted bombast is the title track, a beautiful piano-led ballad. At less than two minutes, it’s less a song than a musical haiku, but for all its brevity has more to recommend it than the other 13 tracks combined.
In the end, Rock’n’Roll does neither, merely stands there sounding gormless. Way to fucking go, Wonder Boy.