Ryan Adams - Love Is Hell - Part 2
Just as the musical side of our brains has mentally absorbed the contrasting brilliance of Ryan Adams’ simultaneous releases of the intense and broody Love Is Hell – Part 1 and the studio pleasing chart assault Rock N Roll, Adams wastes no time and releases Love Is Hell – Part 2 just a month later. If anything, it further adds to the temperamental nature of the Ryan Adams persona.
In short, Part 2 essentially follows the same path as Part 1. Here we have seven sheen-free songs (or nine if you count the UK bonus tracks) devoid of any unnecessary production values or chart polish. It’s clear that Adams is more comfortable using his albums as vehicles to showcase his immense songwriting talent as opposed to churning out Strokes albums, and Part 2 certainly has a more incidental approach to its recording. It’s the sort of anthology of songs that could fit the introspective moments of a film soundtrack. Thank You Louise has the slow minor chords that often settle nicely into the background, whereas Hotel Chelsea Nights could be a pondering Springsteen voiced by Van Morrison in his later years.
Adams is obviously aching to not only try out different musical ideas, but to also to don the disguise of many former maestros. My Blue Manhattan clearly evokes shades of Gershwin, and Adams even ropes in sixties icon Marianne Faithful to sing backing vocals on English Girls Approximately, and her raspy tone fits surprisingly well.
Whether it’s a calculated attempt through his songwriting or not is anyone’s guess, but either way there is clearly a chord of solitude and despair that is prevalent through Part 2. Whereas Part 1 had its fair share of uplifting moments amidst the bleaker songs, be it musically or lyrically, Part 2 conjures up notions of Adams slowly going insane in his hotel room with just his guitar for company. His dismay at having to please the radio on the title track of Rock N Roll is starkly corroborated by Part 2, in which the frailty of Adams’ insecure persona cannot help but take control of proceedings.
Maybe true worldwide acclaim eludes Adams because of his blatant self-destructiveness? Whilst bonus track Fuck The Universe has tremendous raw potential to be a screaming burst of primal energy, with Adams’ lyrical wail of a chorus bellowing “I’m a faker, money maker” taking charge of matters, it’s not going to help sales. If he wasn’t so hell bent on living life through performance therapy, Adams would be lapped up by radio stations and sanitised musical consumers everywhere. Maybe it’s a good thing, therefore, that Adams can still separate music he makes for himself and music he makes for the studio, as when in an uncompromising and unflinching mood he is simply untouchable as a songwriter.
Fans of Love Is Hell – Part 1 will obviously favour Part 2 more than fans of Rock N Roll, and Part 1 is certainly more accessible than Part 2, but that doesn’t make the latter any less of an album. Critics of Adams must surely marvel at the wizardry of releasing three very strong albums in the space of the month. Let’s hope he doesn’t feel he’s earned a long rest and therefore not release anything for a while.