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Ryan Adams Demolition Review

Album. Released 23 September 2002.  

BBC Review

...he reminds us why we loved him in the first place: the undeniable gift with a...

Chris Jones 2002

Hyperactive, troublesome, ornery and just plain comes Ryan again and he still means business. Just when his last shows in the UK seemed to indicate a boy keen to press his own self-destruct button, coming on all Black Crowes and spending a lot of the time in meandering dad-rock jams, he reminds us why we loved him in the first place: the undeniable gift with a simple tune and a yearning voice that melts hearts. It was close, but he's still in the running.

Demolition is the result of five sessions over the last 10 months and actually contains the cream of work destined for at least three unreleased albums, now unleashed in their demo forms. There are, thus, at least three different sides to the album which leaves one with a fairly simple choice: Do you prefer the earlier melancholic side to Adams output (as contained on his debut Heartbreaker) with Ryan and pedal steel veteran Bucky Baxter toute seule and introspective in Nashville; the perky country friendliness of ''Hallelujah'' and the Buck Owens-alike ''Chin Up, Cheer Up''; or the straight-ahead four to the floor rock 'n' roll of his band The Pinkhearts which makes up nearly half of this set?

Of course, herein lies Adams' problem. Attention-deficiency lets him wander instead of focus on his true skills and while experimentation is to be applauded (''Jesus (Don't Touch My Baby)'' with its droning synth is as black, creepy and downright wonderful as he's ever been) you can't help wishing that someone would just sit him down in a studio with no distractions. Touted as 'punky' and 'garage', The Pinkhearts were really nothing more startling than a Tom Petty-meets-the-Stones boys club, and the least typical of his many guises. Still, ''Nuclear'' soars and ''Gimme A Sign'' is fairly irresistible. It's only on stuff like ''Starting To Hurt'' that the bluster starts to really pall.

Where Ryanshines is on the material where he doesn't try so very hard to get away from sounding like the country boy he is. Baxter's steel moans like the wind behind his croak on gems like ''Cry On Demand'' and ''Dear Chicago'' while ''Tomorrow'' with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings has to be one of the most affecting songs he's ever written. That this stuff pours out of him, seemingly at will, doesn't detract from the fact that its of the highest quality. O.K. we can now forgive him the Gap adverts, celebrity posturing and hob-nobbing with Elton John. On the evidence of Demolition Adams still has the chops to maintain his trajectory to classic status. Let's just hope that he's got the attention-span to do it properly next time.

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