There's a scene in the original Austin Powers movie that comes to mind every time I think of Adams. Austin, a man out of time, a goof, a brilliant disguise, a parody of another era, another style, is brought back to life in a bath of warm ooze. He barks out his suggestive thoughts about Liz Hurley like a psychedelic tourette's patient. "I seem to have lost my inner monologue," Austin moans.
Adams has been a wannabe, pop-rock changling since his wunderkind days with the alt.country band Whiskytown. Over a brief, prolific career the 31-year-old North Carolina native has tried on as many personae as Mike Meyers in the Austin Powers movies. And he never seems to have been in control of his inner monologue, recording and releasing every musical thought that comes to mind. Last year that meant three albums--Love is Hell parts 1 and 2, mopey, unlistenable, tuneless affairs; and RockNRoll, make-believe Kiss with none of the fun and inspiration that gave the real think its charm.
This year alone Adams has pledged to release three albums including this, the first, Cold Roses, a two-CD set with his country rock band The Cardinals.
He should stop now and gather some wool. To date my favorite of Adams' records has been Demolition, a collection of songs culled from myriad projects that Adams started and stopped between his commercial breakthrough, Gold, and RockNRoll. But this is better in a coherent, mature kind of way. Once Adams seemed interested only in directly channeling his influences--one song sounded like Neil Young, another Elton John, another The Smiths, a fourth U2.
But with Cold Roses Adams has put it all together--the moments of Crazy Horse, Roy Orbison, and Bono, come and go with a complete integration. Instead of sounding like mere pastiche, it sounds like Adams has arrived at a mid-tempo rock linga franca of our times.
True, on disk two especially, the band--in particular guitarist J.P. Bowerstock--slips into a kind of easy, lope like hippies at a seance summoning Keith-and-Donna era Grateful Dead. But, what the hell, it sounds great. A Dead for post-punk, Lower East Side, college-rock bohos! Here everything works, from the lyrics ("Daylight comes and exposes/Saturday's bruises/And cold roses"), to the guitar hooks, and the easy rhythmic flow of song after song.
I can't imagine that I'll hear a better rock record this year.