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Ryan Adams & The Cardinals Cardinology Review

Album. Released 2008.  

BBC Review

A career breakthrough that could take him from cult status to the big time.

Chris Long 2008

How does Ryan Adams decide which songs go in which of his creative slots? Do the Cardinals only get a call when he's feeling lonely or does he genuinely feel that they bring something extra to his sound?

If he's of that latter opinion, he's sadly mistaken and the reason is written large across Cardinology.

The most stalwart Adams addict would struggle to tell on first listen whether this was a band effort or just Ryan alone, and even repeated plays fails to show any difference between his solo work and this, an album which, given the title, he presumably sees as the most quintessential Cardinals opus to date.

Still, such things are cosmetic. What surely matters most is the standard of the songs on offer and they, given that Ryan is an artist as interested in quantity as he is quality, are once again on the finer side of good.

A slow burner of an album, its debut play reveals few shining gems, but a closer listen uncovers the dramatic beauty that has made Adams such a star.

What marks out Cardinology for particular praise is the maturity of the songwriting. In the past, fingers could be pointed at Ryan for the occasional dropped pass, an underwritten or over-indulgent song included that bore heavily across its neighbours.

Not so on Cardinology. The album is measured and thoughtful, the histrionics and melodrama that has infected past works left aside in favour of something subtler – the musical equivalent of a raised eyebrow as opposed to a waving hand.

Such a quality does have a downside – there’s nothing here to rival the brilliance of, say, New York or Two, but nor is there anything you can genuinely say didn't work.

His previous album, Easy Tiger, was acclaimed as a coming-of-age piece, a career breakthrough that could take him from cult status to the big time. If his intention was prove that such a sentiment was the truth, Cardinology does it in spades.

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