Album Review: Ryan Adams ‘1984’


With such a long and productive career, it’s not surprising that Ryan Adams has done the whole reverential thing once or twice, in 2010 ‘Orion’ saw him turn away from softly-softly alt country all the way to sci-fi metal. This concept album shocked and terrified a few, but it was undeniably a demonstration of Adams’ ability to deviate from his usual style without sacrificing too much of his integrity…

This time, Adams is leading up to the release of his 14th solo record (supporting band ‘The Cardinals’ are sometimes blessed with recognition on the album cover) and has presumably been spending the summer jumping around his bedroom to old 80s punk and hardcore favourites. This resulted in the special 7-inch EP ‘1984’, which was released 19th August and is available now on iTunes, despite all physical copies disappearing rapidly.

This record adds to the endearingly youthful aura surrounding the now 39 year old Adams, feeling like a pure expression of his teenage adoration for ‘Minor Threat’. He himself called the EP a “homage to the halcyon days of the earliest releases from Dischord, SST, Touch & Go and their ilk”.

While the simple and powerful structures found in all this old punk noise are present on the record, the whole affair still feels very ‘Ryan Adams’. Even when screaming and bellowing lyrics, his voice has a slight softness that doesn’t quite manage to punch through with the same nail-biting intensity of his heroes. The 13 minute album has a few definite highlights: opening track ‘When the Summer Ends’ is laden with much needed optimism at the closing of the season, ‘Over and Over’ is an incredibly fun 38 seconds of terse, no-nonsense excitement and ‘Wolves’ actually makes tremendous use of his harmonic tenor alongside some atonal guitar.

The ludicrous shortness of the record actually works to its benefit; Adams seems to have thrown the whole thing together in one frenzied weekend and this lightening bombardment allows for no tedium whatsoever. Die-hard fans of previous gentle work may find this stuff as alien as ‘Orion’, and punk lovers could perceive the homage as falling flat in comparison with the old greats, but this is a competent and charming output that at the very least demonstrates Adams’ continued versatility.

Luke Savage