By Killian Laher
Has Ryan Adams lost it? For a few years in the last decade he was erratic as hell but still managed some superb music, so long as you could put up with the attitude. The introduction of the Cardinals has had the effect of blanding out his music. Cardinology was mediocre at best and it’s hard to know what to make this year’s Orion, his metal album.
This is his self-released double album (throws eyes up to heaven), We’ll skip past the ‘futuristic’, ‘space-age’ album art on to the music, which contains delights such as Wasteland, cringe-y pub-rock with repetitive lyrics (”it’s your wasteland, you’ve had it”) and Numbers (“we’re f**ked… numbers, numbers, numbers”). Ultraviolet Light is at least a decent tune with some ringing jangly guitars, reminiscent of mope-along classic album Love Is Hell, and later on, Gracie is a bright sparkly little song that sounds almost tossed-off effortlessly, like some of his best songs.
They return to ‘radio rawk’ on Stop Playing With My Heart, and Lovely and Blue reminds me of an middle-of-the-road version of Pearl Jam’s State of Love and Trust. Funny how song with that title turns out to be the exact opposite. It feels way too long, and that’s just after Disc One. It’s one forgettable song after another. I’m not sure what he’s aiming for here but whatever it is, he falls short.
Icebreaker would work better in the hands of the likes of Stone Temple Pilots but here it feels forced, like some kind of musical ironic statement. Sewers at the Bottom of the Wishing Well almost works as Adams and his band battle between rock machismo and indie jangling guitars. Evidently he had got a bit bored halfway through the second disc as he tries his hand at a few different styles. Typecast is a country song that could fit on Heartbreaker or any Whiskeytown album, Death and Rats revisits the Smiths-y indie of Love Is Hell and Star Wars tries out a few different styles within the same song. Final track, Kill the Lights is 8 minutes of pub-rock Doors circa LA Woman.
The album is really not my taste, too many of the songs reminding me of his duller tracks like Nuclear, Gimme A Sign etc from Demolition. The guy has definitely got talent, and I understand it was recorded three years ago, but more than ever he needs a focus and a clear direction.