Ryan Adams, Nine Inch Nails, Yourcodenameis:Milo, Antena, Ludacris, Oneida
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Ryan Adams/
Nine Inch Nails/
Eliza Carthy/
Antena/
Ludacris/
Oneida

[The Mail On Sunday, 2005]




RYAN ADAMS, NOT so long ago the darling of alt.country, has been at pains to shake off that tag. Commendably eclectic, he's also relentlessly prolific, which has dispelled a little of the rapturous goodwill that first greeted him. Now backed by The Cardinals, he returns to his country-rock roots on the double set Cold Roses (Lost Highway)****, and once again quality and quantity vie for dominance. This time out, quality just edges it.
 Adams has a gift for distilling the sweetness and sadness inherent in country, while filtering out the sentimentality. On the album's first disc, he evokes Gram Parsons, the young James Taylor and the undervalued Joe Henry without ever resorting to impersonation. The second disc calls to mind the frazzled by-road travelogues of Neil Young. Magnolia Mountain, Sweet Illusion and Easy Plateau deserve to be recognised as out-and-out classics.
 Country had an unlikely impact on the reputation of Nine Inch Nails, thanks to Johnny Cash's jaw-dropping cover of Trent Reznor's Hurt. Maybe it wasn't merely gothy, industrial nonsense after all. Reznor himself may have been affected by Cash; With Teeth (Interscope)** is certainly more tuneful and thoughtful than one might expect. Not that the black-lipstick brigade should feel let down; there's plenty of noisy petulance and cartoon nihilism to go around.
  Speaking of noisy petulance, it would be easy at first listen to dismiss Ignoto (Fiction)*** by Yourcodenameis:Milo as tantrum rock of the Linkin Park school for self-regarding brats. But there's more to this Newcastle outfit's debut. Constructed geometrically from the building blocks of Emo and hardcore, it shows the unmistakably severe influence of former collaborator Steve Albini, the architect behind many of indie's sharpest corners and spikiest crenellations. Ignoto is ferocious and complex. And, yes, not a little whiney.
 So perfectly prescient are the early 80s recordings collected on Antena's Camino Del Sol (Numero)*** that you might suspect it of being a collaborative hoax by members of Stereolab and Air. The French trio combined the easy-listening Latin jazz of Antonio Carlos Jobim with continental high modernism to create a sound of soap-bubble lightness. Today, we have a rash of retro cabaret acts insufferably vying to make such music, and achieving the delicacy and allure of painted gravel. I'd suggest ignoring them and getting this instead.
 As both the biggest and the silliest name in “Dirty South” rap, Ludacris has the virtue of not taking himself too seriously. That's what makes him bearable, where his equally blustering and boastful peers are not. Typically, The Red Light District (Def Jam South)** abstains from the mean spirited, violent posturing that makes so many dull rap records plain odious to boot. It's still by-the-numbers, but at least it's comically so.
 You don't hear records like Oneida's The Wedding (Rough Trade)*** every day. Unless, that is, you're routinely subject to acid flashbacks that deposit you circa 1969. And not the official Beatles-Stones-Hendrix 1969, but the Stravinsky-influenced proto-prog 1969 of The Electric Prunes, Edgar Broughton Band, Soft Machine and metal forerunners Blue Cheer. This surprisingly disciplined album calls up a far-freakin'-out time before experiment was swamped by unwarranted self-indulgence. Fair warning given: Dido fans, this is not for you.





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