Alt-country crooner Ryan Adams typically makes music fit for a rom-com's opening credits, but he has a lesser-known punk side, and 1984 showcases the best of it.
Adams announced earlier this summer that he'd be releasing a 10-song 7-inch filled with punk rock songs. He mentioned in the press release that the the tracks would ape the same feel from the best days of Dischord Records, a Washington D.C.-based label started up by Fugazi's Ian MacKaye, and other equally impressive punk-rock outfits.
Ryan Adams isn't known for punk. The first Adams' track I have ever heard was "Two," off the 2007 album Easy Tiger. When I retroactively explored his catalog after first contact, I saw more and more similar tunes dripping with sentimentality, but you couldn't deny his vocal range. One minute he could be providing a powerful performance behind "Love is Hell" and on the very next track deliver a achingly emotional cover of Oasis' "Wonderwall." But he meddled with punk as well, specifically in The Finger's We Are F*** You in 2003 and a more recent stint with a band simply named Pornography.
1984 is caught somewhere in between Ryan's sentimental Dr. Jekyll and his more raucous Mr. Hyde. Coming in just under 30 minutes, the 7-inch was thankfully recorded digitally by a fan and posted online for all of us to enjoy. Throughout these songs, Adams embraces a more abrasive rawness with instruments and vocals that we're used to hearing, but he doesn't stray incredibly far from what's familiar. The results are less punk rock than say the Sex Pistols and more a flirtation with the genre, reminiscent of early stuff from The Replacements.
My favorite track off 1984 comes around the 18:49 mark, titled "Why Did They Leave You Alone," the song is undeniably Adams but with a driving chorus that's incredibly infectious. Strangely enough, this quirky little release is the most excited I've been for Ryan Adams' music in many years, and we won't have to wait long for more. [Consequence of Sound]