Cardinal Radio

Reader J sent me an email regarding a free Beastie Boys concert on 21 October in Lake Forest, CA. If you’re in the area, I’m sure the Beastie Boys would be a good time. Info as follows (there were tickets on sale the 10th and 11th, but I have deleted that info):

LAKE FOREST, CA

There’s a free Beastie Boys show on 21 October right after the Etnies Goofy vs. Regular Skate Contest in Lake Forest, CA. The only way to get tickets to this one is to show up at one of the following retail locations during the times listed below. Tickets are pretty limited so you should get in quickly if you don’t want to miss out…

MONDAY 10/16, 4PM-6PM
ACTIVE RIDE SHOP in SANTA MONICA (1460 4th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401 – (310)857-1360)

VAL SURF in VALLEY VILLAGE (4810 Whitsett Ave. Valley Village, CA 91607 – (818) 769-6977)

TUESDAY 10/17, 4PM-6PM

ACTIVE RIDE SHOP in CHINO (5491-C Philadelphia St., Chino, CA 91710 – (909) 465-1600)

VAL SURF in PASADENA (169 West Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91105 – (626) 796-0668)

So there you go.

While reading Stereogum yesterday, because I can’t get enough of that Stereogum goodness, I came across a link to Ryan Adams’s new project —Cardinal Radio, “You Are the Audience…” — 36 new tracks thrown out there for us to chew on. Mr. Adams is supposed to have seven new records coming out in 2007, and maybe this is a taste of what is to come.

I used to say, foolishly, that I would listen to anything that Mr. Adams cared to put out. This was in the flush days of “Gold,” when he could do no wrong. His spare, poetic style hit its apex in “Gold” and “Demolition,” sank slightly during “Rock N Roll,” perked up very well for “Love Is Hell,” and then whirled down the drain in a rush of dirty water. Everything since 2003, including “29” and the very forgettable “Cold Roses,” which I bitterly regret buying (anyone want my copy?), has been utter drivel (I did not buy & can therefore not comment on “Jacksonville City Nights”).

What are the factors that could drive someone with such talent into the crapper? Pretty simple, as I see it. Let me say first of all that I have no connection to Mr. Adams, and I could not therefore presume to judge him in any way. All I can judge is his output. So:

1. Use of illegal substances in unhealthy quantities. You know what I’m talking about. In Mr. Adams’s early years as an artist, he was working, as I delicately put it, in a state of high-functioning addiction. In the grand tradition of country music, his substance abuse probably even helped his sound. But in my opinion, the days of high-function are over, and the music has suffered. Ever since, perhaps, the song on “Rock N Roll” entitled “The Drugs Not Working.” No indeed, not anymore.

2. Too much rein. Of course as Mr. Adams became more famous, he got leave from the record company to do whatever he wanted. He is an extremely prolific artist; but most of it is not fit to be heard. Whoever is in charge of his contract should rein him in and make sure only his best work is released — but for some reason he gets to vomit out seven records next year. The label may be thinking that it will make them money; and it will, in the short run, because fans will buy it. But how much crap will people buy before they give up entirely and Mr. Adams then has to make money busking on a street-corner? I know my limit was reached yesterday.

Which brings us to Cardinal Radio. It’s thirty-six tracks and every single one sounds exactly the same; shouted lyrics over Xeroxed guitar tracks. Not only that, but Mr. Adams is trying for punk — but it’s like, 90s punk. In a can. The Dead Milkmen did better punk in 1985 than Mr. Adams’s garbled tracks about — of all things — unicorns for sale (track 13). It’s pathetic. Punk used to mean something. It didn’t just mean that you screamed crap into a microphone while someone pretended to play guitar behind you.

I don’t care if someone wants to try recording another type of music — if Mr. Adams wants to go punk or hiphop, let him give it a go. If he wants to break out of the alt-country mold, then great. I’m not saying he has to wail into the mike and play harmonica like Dylan. The mark of a good artist is change. But it doesn’t feel like he’s changing, or breaking out. It feels like he’s desperate. The tracks are neither quality nor interesting, and there is nothing standout about them. I’m disappointed; and more than that, I’m sad about it. “Gold” and “Love Is Hell” are truly transcendent experiences; I encourage anyone to listen to (and buy) them. But don’t waste your time on Cardinal Radio.

Ryan Adams – Site | Label (Universal Music Group)

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2 comments

  1. sarah’s avatar

    i definitely understand you wanting to hear some real old-fashioned quality Ryan, but i have to say that most of these tracks are absolutely hilarious. and i think that’s all he was going for… just messing around, making funny nonsense songs, and i love them! it’s not like he released these for sale… he’s just a nutty, talented, hilarious person who put out some bullshit tracks for our and his amusement. it’s taking proper advantage of the internet, in this day and age when bandwidth is cheap and broadband connections are standard, and you can fuck around a little, posting silly nonsense for almost free.

    i love your blog, but lighten up, dude!

    also, since then (you probably know by now) that he has posted many, many more of these silly songs, now categorized into “albums” under names like The Shit and Werewolph and DJ Reggie – i must say i’m still enjoying them thoroughly, as i get a huge chuckle out of them. current favorite: a history lesson on pyramids.

  2. zara’s avatar

    Yeah, you’re right, but that post was just general unhappiness with his music since, oh, Rock N Roll. I gotta vent sometimes :D It’s good that folks are getting a chuckle out of them, though I wish he would settle down and make one good album instead of 50,000 pieces of crap.

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