Ryan Adams – Destroyer

Destroyer (Unreleased, rec. 2000)

B+

1. Born Yesterday 2. Dreaming’s Free 3. The Poison And The Pain 4. No Disguise 5. Rainy Days 6. Statuettes With Wounds 7. The String And The Wire 8. Hey There, Mrs. Lovely 9. Nighttime Gals 10. In My Time Of Need 11. Bartering Lines 12. Memories Of You (False Start) 13. Memories Of You 14. Revelator

 

In the year 2000, America’s favorite “Summer Of ‘69” hitmaker entered the studio and r

Just kidding! Had to get that out of the way early so I can get down to business. Destroyer is, sadly, not a re-recording of the KISS album of the same name (although Ryan is rumored to have a cover of the Strokes’ Is This It in its entirety locked away in the vaults, believe it or not). Rather, it is technically the first Ryan Adams solo album, allegedly recorded just a few days before the start of the Heartbreaker sessions. I can’t tell you what it sounds like though, because it’s unreleased and therefore it would be impossible for anyone to listen to it without doing something illegal and I would never do something illegal. Bootlegging is for pirates! Do I look like a pirate to you? Do I have a peg leg and a talking parrot? Do I walk around saying, “Argh!” and “matey” all the time? Do I have a silly curly mustache like Captain Hook? Oh wait yeah I actually do have one of those. But still! I ain’t no pirate!

Fortunately, I found a copy of this album behind a toilet in Stokes last night after I passed out on the bathroom floor, so I don’t think it would violate any particular laws or codes of conduct if I listened to it.

(*Listens to album*)

So it turns out this Ryan Adams guy has some talent! Let’s talk about his music! It consists primarily of fairly basic strummed folksy progressions of major and minor chords and melodies that don’t seem to venture out of the pentatonic too often. And yet, these are all new and (for the most part) interesting compositions that don’t sound bland or rehashed at all. On this album, the arrangements are utterly sparse and hushed, as if these were demos to be completed later. Which I suppose could have been the case. Almost all of the instrumentation consists of acoustic guitars by Ryan and Gillian Welch associate David Rawlings, and backing vocals by Rawlings. Two tracks, the pop gems “Dreaming’s Free” and “Rainy Days” have bells, a third, “Nighttime Gals,” has electric piano, and the mumblecore dirge “The String And The Wire” features Wilco-esque synth strings and radio wave bleeps and bloops. Only three songs feature drums, and only one has electric guitar – a Crazy Horse-ish cover of Gillian Welch’s “Revelator,” which annoying fades out in the middle of a verse. Interestingly, this version would have been recorded about a year before Welch’s own version came out. Now let’s talk about his lyrics! Not much to talk about, since Ryan isn’t exactly a brilliant lyricist and spends most of his time singing about girls that broke his heart. He can usually be counted on to come up with a few memorable lines per album, as well as at least one or two total clunkers (such as on this album’s annoyingly cutesy “Hey There, Mrs. Lovely”: “You used to only want your two front teeth/Yeah, but Christmastime, it came and went and you ended up with me”). Mostly, when read on a page Ryan’s lyrics range from effective to forgettable. Therefore, he often has to rely on his voice to sell the emotions behind the words, which he typically excels at.

Well, now that I’ve summarized like 80% of Ryan Adams’ catalog in one paragraph, I guess I don’t have to do the rest of these reviews. Instead, I shall give up my admittedly useless habit of reviewing music by old white people and instead spend all my free time creating a groundbreaking 12-hour multi-media review of the “Gangham Style” video so that I may finally be “hip” and “with it” like the kids these days.

Getting back to reality, if you’re Heartbreaker fan, you should seek out Destroyer on the interwebs as soon as you’re done walking your dog or changing your baby’s diaper or buying prostitutes on your corporate account or whatever the hell you people do with your lives. Since it’s basically Heartbreaker outtakes in the same style as the album except with less brilliant tracks and with one or two shit tracks (particularly the six-minute “No Disguise,” which sucks SO FUCKING HARD. Songs like this—two or three chords going back and forth at two miles an hour while the wildly overmixed singer mistakes voice cracks and singing every other note flat for “emoting”—are what give this kind of singer-songwriter style a bad name. It’s weird to hear it coming from Ryan, who usually transcends this kind of shit). If you liked the beautiful acoustic-based pop of “AMY,” you’ll love the beautiful acoustic-based pop of “Dreaming’s Free,” “Rainy Days,” and the gentle McCartney shuffle “Nighttime Gals.” If you liked the driving minor key Appalachian folk of “Bartering Lines,” you’ll love the driving minor key Appalachian folk of “The Poison And The Pain” and, um, “Bartering Lines,” which appears here in an alternate version (along with “In My Time Of Need”). I could go on, but you get the point.

I played this game last night. In short, it was the most fun I’ve ever had in a hurricane.



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