The press materials that came packaged with Easy Tiger
are full of quotes from Ryan Adams once again responding to the critics who’ve given him a hard time for the ridiculously fast pace at which he releases records. His gripe is that he doesn’t understand how anyone could possibly put him down for being a “hard worker.” He’s missing the point, obviously; no one’s ever taken him to task for merely working hard, but for what they perceive as a striking inability to self-edit. He’s now released nine records in seven years, and the consensus among writers and music fans is that he’s released enough truly great material to fill maybe four or five records, which would have put him at a perfectly respectable pace of one record every year and a half or so. “I am not interested in music as fine art,” he says, “For me, it’s poetry, sketches… I don’t see any point in editing that kind of information.”
His implication that poetry is something to be left un-edited could be called juvenile, I suppose, but you’ve also got to wonder if maybe Adams is onto something. He records what he wants when he wants and has a record label that’s willing to play along, for the most part. It’s possible that he’s lost more fans than he’s gained by sticking to such an intense release schedule, but he doesn’t seem to mind one bit, and so it seems particularly futile for the rest of us to mind. Here’s a guy who has the kind of creative freedom most artists would (have to) kill for — can we really blame him for taking advantage of it?
Beside the fact that he shifts gears so quickly and changes his sound so drastically from album to album that those four or five records worth of “great” material we’ve all conceded him would actually seem, stylistically, like a jumbled mess, there’s something sort of exciting about sifting through his massive amount of recorded output to find those transcendent tracks.
And make no mistake about it: there is still a decent amount of sifting to be done through Easy Tiger
, though perhaps less than usual. Things get off to a promising start, with ‘Goodnight Rose’, a track that would have fit nicely on the sprawling double album, Cold Roses
. It’s a tailormade show-closer, complete with the big, ringing guitars and the glorious, repetitive chorus. We get a taste of the brilliant one-liners that bearded, alt-country-listening drunks have always loved about Adams, too, when he implores “Rose” to “go on to bed, the bar is closed.” Much of the rest of the record (with the exception of the first single, ‘Halloween Head’, which suddenly seems very out of place) is far more subdued. ‘Two’ is a perfectly pleasant, laid-back track that’s reminiscent of Pneumonia
-era Whiskeytown, and the brilliantly titled ‘Oh My God, Whatever, Etc.’ is one of the best mostly-solo acoustic performances we’ve heard from him in years, while ‘Off Broadway’ is bogged down by another one of Adams’ ill-advised attempts at falsetto, and ‘The Sun Also Sets’ suffers from a weak melody, an uninspiring arrangement and a strangely self-righteous set of lyrics.
As with almost all of Adams’ records, Easy Tiger
is based upon one of his most endearing qualities: this almost Hornbian (Dobbler-esque?) willingness to dive head first into new relationships, perfectly documenting the standard experiences of the girl-crazy, but well-intentioned sensitive type. First, we see wide-eyed, supportive optimism (“And I will be here/If you get scared, just hold my hand”), followed by needy but still kind of endearing desperation (“If you take me back to your place, I’ll try not to bother you, I promise”), and steadily growing boredom (“Here We Go Again/I’m not listening/Everything she says/Oh, I’ve heard it all before”), eventually leading up to sad reflection and recognition of his own self-perpetuating cycle (“When they smile, how can anybody feel bad?/It makes me tired, and I want to go to bed/These girls are better off in my head”).
His gripe is that he
doesn’t understand how
anyone could possibly put
him down for being
a “hard worker.”
We know, though, that he’s going to do it all again and again and again. And that when he does, there will be impossibly sweet, beautiful songs that come from it; there will be just the right amount of self-deprecation, and there will be even more evident signs of musical growth. But there will be some shitty songs too, where ideas are only half-realized, or where there will seem to have been no notable idea present to begin with. People will continue to talk an ungodly amount of shit about him, but the fact will remain that his bouts with mediocrity and even his outright failures are easily outshined by his moments of pure genius.