- Cullman, Alabama


January 23, 2011

Playback: Ryan Adams embraces inner rock star with “III/IV”

When you think of Ryan Adams, a few words usually come up: “Pretentious,” “scattered,” “meandering” and “prolific” among them.

But, “concise”? “Focused”? “Rollicking”? Those aren’t normally what spring to mind.

For Adams’ latest double-disc III/IV, he finally starts to pay off on the flashes of potential that were Cardinology and Rock N Roll. Dashes of punk rock, alt-country, power pop and 80’s rock filter through this 21 song collection, which could be compared to everything from The Cars to The Strokes. Twenty-one songs may sound like overkill, but there isn’t a track among the lot that should be cut.

This is Adams’ 12th proper album (16th if you include his stint with Whiskeytown, innumerable if you include the wealth of unreleased albums he’s left languishing on the shelf) and finds the 36-year-old finally comfortable writing two-and-three minute rock songs, and having fun in the process.

He’s no longer trying to ape any certain style, or live up to the billings of indie rock greatness that have haunted him for more than a decade. Adams also seems happier, as this isn’t the downtrodden troubadour of previous albums like Heartbreaker and 29 — if you’re looking for something in a singer songwriter vein, you’ll be disappointed — this is Adams embracing his inner rock star.

Recorded four years ago and just released a few months back, III/IV was the first album recorded by Adams after sobering up in 2006, right before he began touring in support of his disc Easy Tiger. The sobriety shows, in a good way. He is more focused than he has ever been, and writes great short songs instead of meandering good ones. This album is just plain fun, and nearly every song has at least one great hook.

Highlights include the punk rock “Breakdown into the Resolve,” closing jam “Kill the Lights,” and tongue-in-cheek “Star Wars.”

* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.

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