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Album Review

by Ryan Adams

Pax Am

Review Date
20th February 2017
Reviewed by
Gerry Le Roux

It took me a while to get into Ryan Adams' latest offering. The 80s hair-rock opener and lead single 'Do You Still Love Me' left me cold (still does), and the rest felt competent, yet hardly inspired. But, as with all of his best work, the gems take time - and repeated listens - to reveal themselves. Among various highlights, 'Shiver and Shake' emerged as a stone-cold Adams classic, while 'To Be Without You' is a real treat for Heartbreaker-era fans.

As always, a Ryan Adams album is a study in intertextuality. Slotting in after the guitar-and-synth pomp of the opener, there's the title track 'Prisoner' - its chiming guitars and meandering melody not out of place on a Smiths album, while the line "I'm a Prisoner For Your Love" may or may not hint at Yngwie Malmsteen's 'Prisoner Of Your Love'. Elsewhere, 'Outbound Train' out-bosses the Boss, with the lyrical imagery, mumbled vocals, and melody all cut from the Springsteen template. Adams freely appropriates from the rock 'n' roll canon, even his vocal stylings and inflections slyly mimicking other artists.

Of course, if you're an Adams fan, you will already know that this album was born out of the breakdown of his six-year marriage to actress Mandy Moore. This is very much a break-up album, with everything that implies. Importantly though, it is not a knee-jerk slag-fest. Rather than dissing his ex, Adams focuses on his own feelings and expresses them using classic images of loss and hurt, wrapped in exquisitely crafted songs. In the process, he has created a universal album which plays like a beautiful mash-up of the best parts of all the classic break-up albums.


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