Tracks: La Cienega Just Smiled

It was Come Pick Me Up that I heard first. Again on a monthly music magazine’s free CD. It seems a lifetime ago that I clogged my bookshelves with the print of the music press but there was some golden discoveries made there nonetheless and Ryan Adams’ first album was one.

As such I grabbed his second album Gold upon day of release. It’s one of those aiming-for-great albums that, while it doesn’t quite make it, you can’t help but feel the quality and ambition and think, fuck, there’s a whole lot of talent and potential here that’s only going to get better. But then the hype for this ‘next best thing’ derailed the train and it was some time before the dust settled, if it ever did.

Now Adams’ musical career, it’s ups and downs (though Rock ‘n’ Roll isn’t too bad), battles with Lost Highway and directions has been well and better documented elsewhere so I won’t assume that I can do is justice. There’s a few versions of Ryan Adams – there’s the alt. country of his début Heartbreaker, there’s the Cardinals-leading swagger of Cold Roses, the hushed acoustics of Ashes & Fire and even the heavy metal of Orion – all of which seemed to meld (save the latter) in the confident and hugely accessible recent, self-titled album.

For me, though, it’s those seemingly-simple but gently and subtly sneaky songs like Come Pick Me Up (with lyrics like “I wish you would, come pick me up, take me out, fuck me up, steal my records, screw all my friends….) that lure the listener in to something darker lurking beneath the surface that are his best.

My favourite is La Cienega Just Smiled.

Such a gentle, growing melody. Instantly hooking and soothing but there’s so much more there. The imagery is instantly simple and casual “on with the jeans, the jacket and the shirt” but then there’s the lines like “I’m too scared to know how I feel about you now” and “one breaks my body and the other breaks my soul”… all brushed off with “see you around”.

Ryan Adams has an arsenal of songs about being broken by love and/or drink/drugs but none of them, to my mind (and it’s my blog) as beautifully crafted and affecting as this:

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