Rating: D+I'm a Ryan Adams apologist.
For years now, I've seen sites like Pitchfork give each subsequent Adams album a 77%, or a B-, or some other mediocre rating. And I've gone out and gotten the album anyway, and loved it. Jacksonville City Nights, his country-drenched 2005 album, was in heavy rotation on my playlist for over a year.
But with III/IV, he's lost the plot. It's his first album since 2008's Cardinology, which doesn't sound like a terribly long time but Adams is known for his prolific songwriting and recording. He makes up for it by making this a double album. "Makes up for it" is too strong, because while certainly a lot of time went into recording the 21 tracks that comprise III/IV, at no time does it feel like a lot of effort does. Either that, or Adams is actively trying to mine the most generic rock n' roll he possibly can.
Take "Typecast," the sixth track on disc two. Its arrangement and chord structure apes the worst "Best Of My Love"-era Eagles. "Stop Playing With My Heart" starts off with with the line "Stop dragging my heart around," which sounded better when Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty did it 30 years ago. Everything is suffused with generic bass lines, power chords, and drum beats. It feels like they recorded it in one session, never playing with any of the sounds or trying to do anything interesting with the songs (two exceptions: the prog-rocky "Numbers" and "Star Wars"). The final track, "Kill the Lights," reprises the riff from disc two opener "No," which suggests a) that there is some sort of concept tying the disc together, and b) that the riff is worth reprising (it's almost a rip-off of The Cars' "My Sharona"). He ends it with a third reprise of the riff with joke lyrics like "I've been downtown all night looking for my Wookie." This shit was cute when he followed up a silly exchange with David Rawlings with "To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High" on his solo debut Heartbreaker. It's not cute when it follows the most mediocre effort of his career.
Go ahead and skip III/IV, even if you're an Adams fan.
Ryan Adams official site (no, I don't know why it's like this. This is the sort of crap that I would defend in the past)