Everything sounds hard and constricted on the new Ryan Adams album. Curt bursts of guitar stiffen the songs, while the beat keeps a tense, steady grind. Adams sings with the kind of yearning that borders on a plea.
It’s a different sound for Adams, a feat considering he has put out 14 solo albums in as many years. They’ve ranged in style from variations on the alterna-country sound he forged with his breakthrough band, Whiskeytown, to jumpy punk to pastoral folk.
By contrast, Adams’ self-titled new album goes all in for neo-classic rock. It draws on the kind of serrated riffs Keith Richards likes to hone — but weighted with the heavy bottom and burning organ of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. A song like the single “Gimme Something Good” sounds like it could have bounced off Petty’s “Damn the Torpedoes.”
The inevitable Heartbreakers comparisons in the new music offer a striking contrast to Petty’s lyrical point of view. While Petty “Won’t Back Down,” Adams’ theme sounds more like a “Breakdown.” If that seems needy and depressing, it’s tempered by Adams’ passion and rock-hard power. He captures the kind of pain that excites.