on March 8, 2004
Once I was able to let go of the alt country/Whiskeytown era of his career, Ryan Adams really started to stun me with his talent and range, nowhere more so than Love is Hell pt. 1 and 2. The more I listen to this album, seeming to channel so many artists (to my ear, Jeff Buckley, Pearl Jam, Nick Drake, too many to mention) and also, sounding completely original at the same time, the more I can't believe my ears. The ease with which he can switch genres and sounds, with a different feel and voice to every song, really makes me wonder how fellow musicians who hone their signature sound must secretly feel about his embarrasment of riches. Love is Hell stands out to me because of its tremendous depth and sincerity, something that at times takes a backseat to his cleverness and talent (Gold, to me, is an example of that). Every song on this record makes me stop and feel inspired, with the possible exception of the Wonderwall cover (which I may be alone in thinking is the weak spot on the record, maybe a favorite because it is accessible, I don't know. The original is too spot on to improve). In short, this record (one record, it doesn't make sense as two EPs) is brilliant, and deeply felt.
on November 12, 2003
Love Is Hell...Ok, Ryan's been trying to illustrate this point for years now, right? Not a big fan of the name of this album/EP, but the music is far from poor. Upon first listen, I was bit...bored. But of course this was following a day of sinking into his other, "official release," RockNRoll...which is nearly a polar opposite of Love Is Hell. Two very different moods from Ryan (and both valid and artistic). But Love Is Hell will grow on you - - like mold on wet wood. It's a dreary, half-dreaming, black and white daydream from the bottom of the bottle (of something numbingly strong). But Ryan's been here before and he's "experienced," if not a bit resistant to such toxins. What I like about this record is the production quality about it. There's a lot (very quietly) going on in there. A tempered rage, too tired to break the skin...but potent enough to break your heart. Sure, this "is the Ryan Adams everyone thinks they want to hear." It's certainly the Ryan Adams we're told we want to hear anyway. If you read anything about the time and space of this album (where/when it was recorded and how Ryan was coping at the time), we might better understand the artist himself. This album is wrenchingly cold and spooky. I'm not sure Ryan "enjoyed making this record," but I get the feeling that the process of making it was important to him...and for him. It's tough...love that is. Especially when you have so much to give. Sometimes we just don't know where or how to begin.
on November 4, 2003
Those of you who love the alt-country version of Ryan Adams will be disappointed to some extent but this album seems to harken somewhat back to "Heartbreaker." It is distinctly British with the jangly guitars and understated melodies. The ep is also dark in its scope and starkly different from Gold in almost every way. "This House is Not for Sale" is the best track on this disc while "Political Scientist" seems to be the most unneccessary. "Shadowlands" channels "Sylvia Plath" and the cover of "Wonderwall" is very good.
What is the most striking though about this album is that it is so much stronger lyrically than Rock n' Roll. The melodies are more descernable and hooks abound in the least likely places. It's surprising that Lost Highway would want to keep this album off the shelves and instead force Ryan to make another completely different record. "Love is Hell" has a greater sense of cohesiveness that was absent to a great extent on "Gold" or even on "Demolition." The influence of the Smiths and Joy Division is quite apparent. Adams seems to take on this genre well. The truest test though will be to listen to "Love is Hell pt. 2" and decide just how good an album these two EP's would have made.
Until then, pick this up and skip out on Rock n' Roll if you want more than fluff.
on November 11, 2003
How dumb are record companies? This collection of songs narrowly escaped the discard pile at Lost Highway despite being the very best work Adams has done since "Heartbreaker". Moody, intense and at times, painfully beautiful, Love is Hell 1 is destined to be a classic.Favourite tracks include "The Shadowlands" (echoes of low-fi Springsteen), "This House is Not For Sale" (which wouldn't be out of place on any Whiskeytown album) and the despairing "Afraid Not Scared". The much discussed cover of "Wonderwall" leads a catchy if fairly insipid pop song into territory the Brothers Gallagher could never have imagined. This is intelligent music by one of the most talented songwriters around. As for Lost Highway - perhaps they should find a pretty boy-band to promote - I hear they sell lots of albums.
on January 12, 2004
Turn off the lights, have a glass of wine, and listen to this album. This is brilliant stuff. This was meant to be the official follow up to his 2001 album GOLD, but Lost Highway shelved the album and asked him to record something more mainstream, which he did with ROCK N ROLL (which is good in its own right, but it can't compare to this or his other work). So ROCK N ROLL was released as the official follow up, and the LOVE IS HELL sessions were released as two EPs (although now I've heard that Lost Highway is going to release it as one disc, why they didn't do this initially remains to be seen). Part One of LOVE IS HELL is really good, even better than Part Two if you ask me. It opens with the piano ballad "Political Scientist", moving into the dark ballad "Afraid Not Scared". The tempo is kicked up a little on "This House Is Not For Sale" and the title track, which are both great songs. He does a really great cover of Oasis' "Wonderwall", with haunting vocals and arrangements. The last three songs, "The Shadowlands", "World War 24" and "Avalanche" are brilliant songs, that should not be missed. This is essential Ryan Adams to own, and should not be missed. Among some of the best work he's ever done in his career.
on March 19, 2004
Who can resist a recording with history - or - two recordings with history for that matter? Ryan Adams' recently released "Love is Hell Pt I" and "Love is Hell Pt II" have more than enough history to quench the cravings of even the most ardent musical voyeur. But as enticing as the associated story might be to some, this shouldn't be the inspiration for diving headlong into these two unwittingly obscure Adams releases.
Since Whiskeytown's second recorded sojourn, "Stranger's Almanac", Ryan Adams has proved to be one of this country's most affecting and prolific contemporary singer-songwriters. From leading a roots-based alt.country band, through a period as the contemplative soloist and recently onto something akin to a rock and roll god, Adams has pursued his path with both variety and substance. And, as lesser talents could have easily fallen by the wayside, he has maintained his course via ardent dedication and some firm belief, coupled with a headstrong conviction.
While his 2002 release, "Demolition", was schizophrenic collection of songs that were never really destined for any particular album, "Love is Hell" was meant to be the full-fledged follow-up to his groundbreaking and widely acclaimed release "Gold". But Lost Highway weren't sufficiently impressed and, late last year, an album titled "Rock N Roll" emerged in its place. As a result, "Love is Hell" soon found itself rather unceremoniously split in half and spread across the course of two separate Eps.
"Love is Hell Pt I" accompanied the release of "Rock N Roll", while "Love is Hell Pt II" emerged about a month later. Whether this was a shrewd marketing ploy designed to bolster sales of the new album, a consolation to the artist or simply a face saving way for the record company to release the material doesn't really matter. What is ultimately of concern is the music and the fact that the recording has finally seen the light of day.
The ironic thing in all of this is of course that "Love is Hell" is a far more deserving production than "Rock N Roll". Tempered and considered, this is music whose potency is served through suggestion rather than infliction. Nowhere is this more evident than within the laconic vocal delivery of "Afraid not Scared" or the mournful lament of "The Shadowlands".
Driven solely by a haunting piano line, "The Shadowlands" is a contemplative exploration of dislocation and its melancholic sentiment is superbly reinforced through the delayed introduction of some restrained instrumentation. Within these compositions, Adams gives us space and it serves his intent well. Likewise, the sweet charm of "I See Monsters" presents emotional disconsolation impeccably packaged within some airy acoustics.
What emerges through the course of these recordings is an eloquent portrait of an artist who is completely at the mercy of his heart. Which really cannot be said for a lot of recent releases. "Love is Hell" is a dark and brooding exploration of some typically sparse, yet, incredibly emotive musical landscapes. And while, in this outing, Ryan Adams' muse might be lurking in deep within the shadows, this simply lends weight to the conviction that such experiences can often be the most illuminating.
on November 6, 2003
It's inevitable that this album is going to be compared to "Rock and Roll". I'll briefly say that I prefer this EP (it's still 35 minutes long) to the Rock and Roll LP, but the two are truly seperate and unique albums.
This is a moody, somber affair, full of minor keys and pianos. It's spirit is similar to Heartbreaker (still his best), but the sound is lusher, fuller, and more ornate. Also, unlike Heartbreaker, this disc has NO "pick-me-up" song like the fun "To be Young" on Heartbreaker. The mood goes along similar to a funeral dirge.
The best song here is actually a cover - a solo, finger-picked cover of Oasis's "Wonderwall". Adams fully invests himself in the song, and you truly feel that although he didn't write the words, he truly feels them.
Other highlights are "The Shadowlands", which opens as a stark, dark song, and develops into a lush, pleasant intrumental coda at the end; and "Avalanche", which finds Adams at his most wistful.
I'm not sure this is for everyone - if you're looking for Adams' alt-country roots, don't bother with this (or any future release of his, it seems). If however, you're a fan of Adams himself, and are eager to hear the next step in his sound, this is certainly reccomended.
on December 12, 2003
This was intended to be the official follow up to 2001's GOLD album. Lost Highway decided not to release this as an album though, thus why it is in two EP's, and encouraged Ryan to record a different album, which is ROCK N ROLL. Being an important alt-country label with a following, I suppose they didn't want an album like this, which is dark and depressing, with a more stylized approach to rainy day music. He worked with John Porter, who produced much of The Smiths albums in the 80s. Fans of Ryan's music would like the LOVE IS HELL EP's more than ROCK N ROLL, which is much more in tune with the musical styling of bands like The Strokes. Not that it's a bad thing, but this was the intended album to be released and it shows. LOVE IS HELL has the substance and depth in the lyrics we've come to expect from Adams. This EP flows well from start to finish, not one weak song in the bunch.
on December 4, 2003
Undoubtedly the best album he has ever done. I have listened to this 40+ times and it gets better every listen. Adams is the most important songwriter of this generation period! as Westerberg was for the eighties, Adams is for the now. There is really no way to explain how good this album is, on every level. Pt. two especially is so full of honesty it is sick. English Girls Approximately is amazing as well as I See Monsters and Thank You Louise might be one of the most depressing 3 minutes of vinyl. That song alone is an example of the depths of his writing ability, starts like an uplifting tune and ends so tragically.
BUY THIS NOW.....AS A WHOLE 1+2
Ryan's label, Lost Highway Records, refused to release "Love Is Hell" as the proper follow-up of "Gold" in Spring 2003, as orginally contemplated, fearing "Love Is Hell" is not commercial enough. (These are probably the same suits that refused to release Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.) So they "suggested" to Ryan to come up with something else (which he did, with the dreadful "Rock N Roll"), and as a bonus we finally do get "Love Is Hell", albeit in 2 EPs.
"Love Is Hell (Pt. 1)" (8 tracks, 34 min.) is a great listen, and flows very well from where "Gold" left us. The opener "Political Scientist" finds Ryan on piano, beautifully moping as only he can. Other standout tracks include: "This House Is Not For Sale", a nice upbeat tempo rune with a tip of the ol' hat to the Smiths, "The Shadowlands", another beautiful ballad, and the haunting Oasis cover "Wonderwall", oddly enough the best track.
Why the record label refused to issue "Love Is Hell" as a proper album is incomprehensible. But at least now the music is out, well half of it (the rest comes in December). For anyone wondering whether to buy this or "Rock N Roll", the choice is very clear: "Love" may be "Hell", but at least Ryan makes it sound great.