If Bruce was dead

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Ryan Adams’ latest album Prisoner continues down the more electric, rocky path of his self-titled album, with lots of chiming, at times deliciously rusty sounding Fenders, with the amp set to, as Ryan has said, that level that just starts to ‘fry the egg’, and with more alt-country organ and, although Ryan was talking about bands like ELO before the release, more of the haunting keyboard washes such as that on his Bruce Springsteen ‘I’m On Fire’-y sounding reworking of Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it Off’, which seems to have rubbed off on a song such as ‘Shiver and Shake’, which shimmers into view with clean, strummed guitar and eventually the afore-mentioned keyboards adding a spare counterpoint, just as a bare sky frames a wide open countryside. ‘Haunted House’ is the kind of simple melody that Bruce would employ, and Ryan sings it in a grumbly Bruce kind of way too. The song ‘Prisoner’ is deceptively simple and melodic, like ‘Brilliant Disguise’, other songs seem like despatches from forgotten corners of the US, with a hint of desperation, quietly expressed. Nice to hear ‘We Disappear’ opening with chorus pedal augmented guitar, in that iconic watery sustained 80s guitar sound, then fading out with an effects drenched cacophonous solo. But as with his other music, there is nothing overly complicated – Americana chords, the equivalent of comfort food. But not junk food. Clear recording, emphasis on instruments, not their over-production. No sugar-coating, no puff pastry, no layer of fat. Not just in terms of instrumentation, the ghost of Bruce Springsteen hangs over the record, or at least it would if Bruce was dead. As others have noted, it sounds like a break-up record, the way Bruce would do it.

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