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Bryan Adams - So Happy It Hurts (Album Review)

Tuesday, 22 March 2022 Written by Simon Ramsay

Bryan Adams has nothing left to prove and little still to achieve, which might explain why the Canadian’s last few albums, some fine moments aside, have been as bland as a cardboard omelette. ‘So Happy It Hurts’ isn’t perfect, but its ebullient rock-based songs represent a sizeable improvement on recent offerings. 

Collaborating once again with super-producer and co-writer Mutt Lange, as well as featuring a brief hook up with former partner in crime Jim Vallance, Adams has taken a different approach to the events of the last two years than most artists. 

There’s no intense self-exploration here, not a hint of existential dread, nor any mention of the misery that’s swept around the globe. Instead, this is a relentlessly one dimensional record that radiates feelgood colours as it shoots from the heart without, often to its detriment, engaging the head.  

‘So Happy It Hurts’ is the kind of undemanding, escapist effort you blast out of the speakers while driving on the open road with windows rolled down, sun blazing in your eyes and brain set to cruise control. 

Whether it’s the title track’s Don’t Bring Me Down ELO vibe, Ricky Nelson rockabilly pumper I’ve Been Looking For You or You Lift Me Up and Always Have, Always Will, two big power ballads, this is a record that leans heavily on generic musical tropes to convey its passionately expressed, albeit unimaginative, sentiments.  

Aside from the exceptional Never Gonna Rain Again, which rides a thoughtful mid-tempo groove towards a gospel-enriched hook, inspiration mostly plays second fiddle to a contagious sense of energy and purpose that somewhat elevates these predictable cuts above their station.  

One of the biggest criticisms of latter day releases such as ‘Shine A Light’ and ‘Tracks Of My Years’ was that their plodding MOR sound paled in comparison to the hard rock of outright classics ‘Reckless’ and ‘Waking Up The Neighbours’. Considering he continues to tear it up on stage with his band, and still has a youthful blue collar rasp to deliver the goods, that lack of spark has baffled and frustrated in equal measure.

Although this record isn’t a full-blooded return to the raw sounds of yore, or at the calibre of his finest songwriting, it does find Adams hitting the overdrive pedal in a way he hasn’t done on record for a while. Both On The Road and Kick Ass, despite its awfully cheesy spoken intro by John Cleese, find him falling back in love with good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll again.  

It’s just a shame that, instead of marrying this old school musical aesthetic to smart contemporary storytelling, Adams has painted in such broad,  lyrical strokes. Each superficial line here sounds like an easily recognisable, lazy shortcut that’s been employed for immediate effect at the expense of anything resembling insight.    

You don’t really expect a Bryan Adams record to provide too much lyrical perspicacity, but a little depth, detail and specific character wouldn’t have gone amiss on a good-not-great album that gets by on spirit and attitude rather than quality and invention.

Bryan Adams Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Mon May 09 2022 - LONDON Royal Albert Hall
Tue May 10 2022 - LONDON Royal Albert Hall
Wed May 11 2022 - LONDON Royal Albert Hall
Fri May 13 2022 - BRIGHTON Centre
Sat May 14 2022 - BIRMINGHAM Utilita Arena
Sun May 15 2022 - NOTTINGHAM Motorpoint Arena
Tue May 17 2022 - MANCHESTER AO Arena
Wed May 18 2022 - LIVERPOOL M&S Bank Arena
Fri May 20 2022 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Utilita Arena
Sun May 22 2022 - ABERDEEN P&J Live
Mon May 23 2022 - GLASGOW OVO Hydro
Wed May 25 2022 - HULL Bonus Arena
Thu May 26 2022 - LONDON O2 Arena
Sun May 29 2022 - BELFAST SSE Arena Belfast
Mon May 30 2022 - DUBLIN 3Arena
Wed June 29 2022 - ST AUSTELL Eden Project
Fri July 01 2022 - SCARBOROUGH Open Air Theatre
Sat July 02 2022 - WIDNES DCBL Stadium
Sun July 03 2022 - TELFORD QEII Arena
Tue July 05 2022 - DURHAM Riverside
Wed July 06 2022 - KELSO Floors Castle
Fri July 08 2022 - NORWICH Blickling Estate
Sat July 09 2022 - OXFORD Great Tew Park
Sun July 10 2022 - LEEDS Harewood House
Mon July 11 2022 - CARDIFF Cardiff Castle

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