Ryan Adams - Love Is Hell - Part 1

Sometimes the order of tracks on an album plays an important part in its initial reception. Ryan Adams often boasts about his prolific songwriting, claiming to have many, many albums lying in the vaults, and it’s often hard to know what to believe when he spouts his self-indulgent self-hype. After the breakthrough album Gold endeared him to many with his accidental patriotism on opener New York, New York, Adams’ fanbase has often expected different tunes to what the man himself delivers. When Demolition was released in 2002, it was branded a collection of demos gathering dust in the Adams vaults.

However, with Love Is Hell, a different story was thrown around the press. Adams himself claims that he delivered the album to his label Lost Highway and that they rejected it, claiming that it sounded like a first draft demo stage of a ‘proper’ album. Moody, acoustic and bursting with raw cynicism, Love Is Hell is shades away from the polished sheen of Gold, obviously to the label’s horror. So, in a clever piece of marketing, Adams churns out Rock N Roll as a direct answer to his label, and releases the first part of Love Is Hell on the same day.

If Adams had opened with the title track, it’s possible the label might have seen matters differently, but it’s relegated to track four, and sounds the most like a cull from the Gold sessions. The albums’ actual opener Political Scientist is a rambling, slow-burning exercise in suburban paranoia that is nothing but an overture for the album’s proceedings. Afraid Not Scared is a brilliant Jeff Buckley-esque plea for help, with an intensity branded into the central lyric of “I’m Really Dying In Here, And I’m Afraid, No I’m Scared”.

This House Is Not For Sale is a redemptive and resolute defiance of one’s own home, and has an uplifting soul immersed in strong guitar rhythms. After Love Is Hell comes the album’s most interesting track, a cover of Oasis’ Wonderwall, which Noel Gallagher himself claims to be the best version of the song he has ever heard. It’s an acoustic, extremely stripped down take on the Britpop staple, and it maintains a fiery delivery throughout. If only all cover versions were this interesting, and this contemporary in their referencing.

The Shadowlands is another pained and desperate plea for rain, beautifully initiated as a piano ballad and then mutated into a full guitar driven reflection. If Adams keeps up with songwriting this matured and forgets about trying to be the next superstar rockstar, there are no limits to where his musical direction can take him. World War 24 is a drugged-out battle through a twenty-four hour time haze in London, and is mostly filler on the album. Avalanche is a pleasant piano driven conclusion to the ‘proper’ tracklisting, but depending on where you buy your album you could have two bonus tracks.

The first bonus track Caterwaul is noticeable as it contains a duet between Adams and Leona Naess, that builds up into a frantic crescendo of drumming off the back of uninspired vocals. Second track Halloween is a sprightly acoustic romp that many will seek out because it contains The Strokes’ Fab Moretti on drums, and it’s a good, jaunty conclusion to this forty-five minute collection of songs.

Ryan Adams fits so many guises that it’s often hard to keep up with him and take him seriously, but after a few spins of Love Is Hell Part 1 you’ll not only be looking to purchase the second part come release day, you’ll also be seeking out Rock N Roll purely to see the flip side of Adams’ musical coin. It’s a brooding yet subtly uplifting collection of words and music straight from Adams’ soul, and it may be his most personal solo work yet.



out of 10

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