Ryan Adams - 1984 [7-inch] (Cover Artwork)

Ryan Adams

1984 [7-inch] (2014)

Pax Am Records

Whether it’s indie rock darlings like Ted Leo and Dinosaur Jr., or the uber hip electronic music of Steve Aoki, I have always been deeply interested in the work of artists who found their initial musical identity and education in punk rock, and then used the “lessons” they learned by applying the punk rock ethic or energy to vastly different art forms. Despite the various flaws that is inherent in any scene or movement, punk rock is such a deeply profound art form that it’s damn near impossible to walk away from it unscathed.

One of the punk rock alumni that I have always been interested in is Ryan Adams, an N.C. native who initially made waves in the alt-country band Whiskeytown, before reaching critical and commercial success as a solo artist. But anyone who has listened to Whiskeytown knows that, despite the country-fried twang, they were essentially a punk rock band; with on stage antics that would make Tim Armstrong blush. Ryan continued with this Replacements-style snottiness for the first ten or so years of his post-Whiskeytown career, recently showing significantly less adolescent behavior. But despite this, Adams has returned to his first passion ('80s-era punk rock) with the 1984 7-inch, the first of his newly created monthly 7-inch series.

It's not altogether surprising that he would put out a punk record in 2014, as he almost exclusively wears hardcore and black metal shirts at his sold-out acoustic gigs, but it’s something of an oddity for him to do so at this moment, where he is making something of a commercial comeback, and releasing a ten song punk rock 7-inch is hardly a commercially viable venture. Potential gimmickry aside, Adams is a man who has clearly done his homework, with this new release oozing the reckless abandon of the Replacements, Husker Du and Dag Nasty.

1984 is a torrent of punchy pop songs that showcase Adams at his loudest/hardest/fastest. The ten songs end in only 12 minutes, with the songs ranging from 30-90 seconds. The album kicks off with “When the Summer Ends,” a 70-second behemoth of a pop song. The passion that flows through the melodies is hard not to notice, with Adams belting his heart out in the last moments of the song. Third track “Over and Over” is perhaps the noisiest track on the EP, with a repetitive and chanting hook that would surely make many of his traditional fans run for the hills from his scathing and wailing singing.

The EP continues at this pace, with each song seemingly blending into the one before it. Most of the songs shake off the traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure that Adams usually abides by, with the song “Wolves” being one of the only tracks that is not almost completely atonal (which I mean in the best way possible), with infectious harmonizing guitars and a bouncy beat that would put most of the so-called “punk” bands at the Gainesville Fest to shame.

As can be said about any great early Dischord 7-inch, 1984 ends as soon as it began, with the listener instantly wanting to experience it again. Ryan Adams has always been an incredibly prolific artist, firing material to the masses several times a year. I was very hesitant when I heard he was releasing a self-described punk EP, as Orion, his attempt at prog metal was indulgent at best (and embarrassing at worst), but this is a release that kicks and screams its way into your psyche, with a sincerity and passion equal to anything released in Southern California in 1982. Seeing this side of Adams shown in it’s rawest form only makes me want to hear him explore this style more, which is potentially set to happen with his hinted at 1985 EP. Great punk records can sometimes come from unlikely places, and Ryan Adams is no exception.