Review: Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, ‘III/IV’

Review: Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, ‘III/IV’: Aidin Vaziri | Ryan Adams has described his band’s latest double-length opus as a rock opera about the ’80s, ninjas, cigarettes, sex and pizza. Hey, anything has to be better than the plodding Grateful Dead-obsessed releases that rushed forward a few years back. Even though the songs here are actually leftovers from the recording sessions for 2007’s “Easy Tiger,” they are generally vastly superior to anything that actually made it onto the album proper. Charged, emotionally frayed jams like “Happy Birthday” and “Kisses Start Wars” in particular feel like throwbacks to his “Rock N Roll”-era glory years, while the country rocker “Typecast” reaches back even further to his days as the front man for Whiskeytown. Untethered and freshly sober, Adams rips through a set of songs that pull together his many influences, from the Smiths on the cascading “Ultraviolet Light” to the Stones on the willfully messy “The Sewers at the Bottom of the Wishing Well.” His experiments in hair metal (“Icebreaker”) and aping the Replacements (“Kill the Lights”) may not be as effective, but overall this is invigorating, engaging stuff – a return to form, even – that you only hope enough fans have stuck around to actually hear.

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