The days of wine and stadiums long gone, the manly men of '80s rock are now free to roam far less constricting musical pastures. John Mellencamp is tackling dance music; Bruce Springsteen is cruising the Tex-Mex border. For 18 'Til I Die, the perpetually clean-cut Bryan Adams has grunged up his look (out with the white T-shirts, in with neon-bright suits) and sleazed up his music. ''The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me Is You,'' the first single, sets the pace: With its scrappy guitar and lizardlike rasp, it sounds like Don Henley on a bender.
So it goes with much of the album: You'll swear you've already heard these songs or seen the videos a hundred times on VH1. For ''You're Still Beautiful to Me,'' Adams literally morphs into the old, endearing Rod Stewart. For that Big '80s flavor, he cranks out ''It Ain't a Party...If You Can't Come 'Round,'' which re-creates the lug-head charm of Eddie Money hits. Ol' Bry not only name-drops Sting but even paraphrases him (''If you love somebody/If you want someone'') in ''Do to You.'' The album also confirms that Adams' most distinctive sound is no longer the air-guitar splendor of ''Run to You'' but mawkish soundtrack-ready ballads like ''I'll Always Be Right There'' written for a movie that doesn't yet exist.
18 'Til I Die is hackwork, yet hackwork so upfront about its intentions and so eager to please that it's hard to despise. For every cringe inducer like ''Black Pearl,'' a laughably coarse ode to interracial lust (''I can still smell her sweet molasses/Running all over me''), there's an effortless make-out ballad like ''Let's Make a Night to Remember,'' which would float on any summer breeze. At such moments you'll forget the paradox that is Bryan Adams a 36-year-old everyteen who sings lines like ''I don't look good in no Armani suits'' yet records in the south of France and feel like you're 18 again too. B-