Ryan Adams – Love is Hell, Pt. 1

Ryan AdamsLove is Hell, Pt. 1 (Lost Highway)

What are we going to do about this guy? Seriously. Not only does he put out two records in one day, but the one I get stuck reviewing is his foray into 80s light rock? I’d rather have the dirty stick, thanks very much.

Love is Hell, Pt. 1 (thanks for the warning of the coming Part 2) starts out strong, actually. The lead-off track, “Political Scientist,” is a spooky tune about chemical plants and all that dark grimey shit that is so in fashion during this Bush administration. The bass playing is fantastic and melodic like that of McCartney’s best post-Rubber Soul. The song launches into some nice soundscapes toward the end and can’t help but draw comparisons to bits of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (a band for which Adams is forever linked because of his constant disingenuous distancing). And while the lead guitar hovers too close to later day David Gilmore for my likings, it quickly recovers to a jangly mess that touches more on Mind Bomb-era Johnny Marr and continues Adams’ fascination with all things Smiths.

That, of course, brings us to the Mozzer-like “Afraid Not Scared,” which would be a fine song if not for the annoying layers of reverb all over the place. It’s like Ryan just discovered the Alesis Quadraverb that musicians everywhere first got their hands on in 1986. Most of this EP is stuck in 1986, in fact.

Produced by John Porter (yes, of the Smiths and Roxy Music fame), Love is Hell reeks of 80s polish and echo. It seems Adams cannot let his songs come through these days without drenching them in the putrid stench of bad production. For someone with all the bravado of a street fighter in print, he seems too afraid to let his songs stand on their own.

Even the Oasis cover “Wonderwall,” a song by two loud-mouthed mother fuckers who could teach Ryan a thing or two about being a ponce, falls flat with the use of a fretless bass. Fretless bass! Christ, even Sting has steered relatively clear of this soul sucking instrument since that crap Blue Turtle record that let us all in on his diabolical plan to soften rock.

Ah, but it seems our boy is a bit of an anglophile. Sure, good music lovers everywhere owe a debt to that tiny island nation for the wealth of great pop they’ve ponied up. But Ryan Adams seems to be turning into that annoying girl on foreign study who adopts a British accent two weeks into the semester. Yes, Ryan even screams out “love is ‘ell” on the title track. Need I say more?

Sad to say because I love a lot of what Ryan Adams has done, but what made his earlier work so compelling was his reliance on good songwriting and loose production. This album has neither and is better left for the WLHT crowd.

40 thoughts on “Ryan Adams – Love is Hell, Pt. 1”

  1. i think love is hell is great. and your review says little about the music, which is kinda strange for a music review. the bass is not fretless! listen to the record! and britain has produced the best pop music of all time DEREK.


  2. I very much enjoyed this ep. So the guy goes through “phases?” He’s an easy target to hate – and he admits it. I actually DO think this and the follow up ep will stand the test of time.

    Thanks for the press though.

  3. blah blah blah…you’re review reeks of disdain for the artist. love is hell is a masterpiece. smoke a j, light a candle and have a bath and enjoy.

    p.s. instead of thinking bush during political scientist, think white stripes.

  4. I totally agree… Maybe he is trying to prove a point and throw out this shit to get it out there…

    decent songs, but they do not come close to what he is able to do

    shit, his un released songs from 99 are 10 times more structured than this

  5. You americans have never appreciated your music artists throughout the ages- its only natural ryan adams musical references are british – we know a good thing when we see it!

    The only real question is: is Love is Hell a good album?

    The answer is: if you yanks don’t know a quality album when you hear one then you don’t deserve to keep a quality artist! move to london ryan we got all you need!

  6. “your review says little about the music” is a very off-mark remark. The review is quite closely about the music. The observation about RA’s anglophile tendencies is quite revelatory for me. “Is Love is Hell a good album?” is clearly answered by this reviewer, so the disdain of some of you commentators is obtuse. Incidentally, we yanks may not know a good album when we hear one, but we MAKE a lot more good ones than you brits. Just an idle observation.

  7. I dig Love is Hell.

    The reviewer sounds like he has a issue with “Ryan the personality” and it’s affecting his bias towards the music.

  8. i like your review, and i like the feedback too. . .

    both are well thought through. . .

    he’s the best writer rock-n-roll or whatever the archetype is any-fucking-more has going in the sense that he makes you feel like everyone else’s stuff is just pretty fucking naive and um… kind of fucking dull.

    so yeah, everyone is right here.

    his label sucks -and cares about adult contemporary (but secretly is watching the door for his white stripes launch). note to luke lewis: just sit back and enjoy the best fucking guy you WILL EVER FUCKING SIGN,

    compelling art is the key and OBVIOUSLY THE GUY IS DOING IT.

  9. its an acoustic bass, not a fretless….

    and americans, you dont make more better albums than us. that is rubbish. ryan is virtually english anyway, his songs reference london now, not carolina. america has pushed him away, and refused to give his music a chance.


  10. I knew a guy in college who spent a semester or two in England. When he returned to the colonies, he began referring to his apartment as a “flat”, and framing questions in Queen’s English inquisitives. “Are we going to the pub, then?” This lasted for a week or so, until mountains of ridicule from friends convinced him that he wasn’t, in fact, a new romantic dandy fop living on the dole after dropping out of art school.

    Maybe the same sort of intervention is necessary with Adams. I think even his most ardent fans would agree that stylized/hyped constructs have always played a role in his creative output. Maybe the ‘Love is Hell’ EPs place that stylistic baggage ahead of the actual creative engine, which as Derek mentioned has always been Adams’ solid (often spectacular) songwriting.


  11. I love this album! Its Ryan Adams, its real its original its just great music. And Adam’s version of Wonderwall is the by far the best i have ever heard!

  12. what the hell is wrong with America. They just dont seem to be able to appreciate what they got with Ryan Adams. The guy is nothing short of a genius. Rock n roll is a good album. Love is hell is a total classic. What a voice ! what a songwriter ! Cant wait to see him November 24th in Manchester.

  13. hmmm…well, howard jones, the media and remarks ryan has made have turned many against him and sadly his music. i agree, and think he is nothing short of a genius.

  14. The fact that stuff like this gets ignored is reason alone to hold the current state of popular culture in immodest distain. There are many reasons to like Ryan’s music, but the biggest, in my opinion, is that it’s interesting. Do something different theses days and people get uspet. Wear your influences on your sleeve and people scream copycat. Speak your opinion and people get uncomfortable. Love is Hell isn’t my favourite album of his, but damn, I could sit and listen to Avalanche alone all day, on repeat.

    He dates unbelievably attainable women. He drinks. He smokes. He writes incredibly beautiful music. He’s what an entertainer should be. It’s a helluva lot better than being boring.

  15. Ok, if this was coldplay or radiohead everyone in the commercial music review scene would be cumming in their knickers right now. But, alas it is Ryan and he is not very much liked by people with critical license. All I can muster myself to say is suck my arse, and start to appreciate good music, and writing for what it is. If you can’t do that then listen to the White stripes, my ten year old daughter does.

  16. Forget the pointless UK–US debate. We Brits produced great music like the Smiths and the Clash, while America gave us Dylan, Pavement and Laura Nyro – although the whole nu metal scene is a travesty. So where’s the argument? It’s not about where the music’s from, it’s about what it sounds like.

    Ryan’s music is great. Love is Hell is patchy but at its best the songs transcend most of his contemporaries’ and are not as derivative as people make out. So he might never produce another Heartbreaker but all that does is reinforce what a great album that was. And does his personalit

  17. I liked “Love is Hell” alright- the overall sound is very haunting, and I found the songwriting more sincere and honest than all the posturing on “Rock and Roll.” He can write a damn good song when he isn’t trying too hard to be a bad ass, or sing about which girl left him or what kind of drug he’s taken. I think the “poor me” thing wears thin after awhile. That said, the record is OK, a little flat though. Not too much to chew on.

  18. Paul Westerburgh is a drunk, washed up pussy. He should be laying down in front of Ryan Adams thanking him for the comparisons.

  19. i love the music ryan adams creates and the music that influences him (and the music that influences the music that influenced him)

    but what really compels me about his songs is his voice–i don’t think enough attention gets paid to ryan’s gorgeous voice–i’m very happy he put “wonderwall” on the “love is hell” pt.1 album because when I heard him sing it live (as a joke!) it was like i was hearing that great song for the first time–something about the way ryan sings makes me feel as though he’s whispering it in my ear.

  20. When I die I’m gonna have “Shadowlands” playing at my funeral. It is simply stunning. This is stuff that Radiohead could only dream about writing now they’ve dissappeared up their arses (sorry own ASS).

  21. It’s strange to see how much a slightly british-sounding (and indeed beautiful) album whirls up the jealousy on each of the sides of the Atlantic.

    For me here in Germany it sounds all like: Muuuuum…… He hit me with his plastic shovel!!!

    But he called me a monkey first!!! Wääääääähhhhh!!!! I’m Mums’ loved child…., and youarenot…! Take that back! No! Yes you will! No. Never!

    (Goes out with bits of crying here and little sulking there)

    So please my dear we-are-the-countries-where-rock-was-born friends, stop that. It tell too much about what I think are the general mentalities we can cope so bad with in the rest of the world!

    P.S. Got myself Love is hell Pt. 1&2 and can’t stop listening. (although it’s slightly british! LOL)

  22. the use of the word “genius” regarding Adams is borderline insanity if not moronic.

    I like Ryans work, and I like the Love is Hell eps, particularly part 1.

    But genius, please that is overstating things quite a bit.

    Einstien, Edison, Copernicus, Galileo, are geniuses. Adams writes interestingly melodic commentary on society.

  23. So what if Sir Elton is Ryan’s biggest fan. Elton’s been part of some pretty fucking great pop songs. Or are you all just too hip to admit it? I’m off to listen to Barry Manilow, cos that’s one dude that can write a POP song. And it’s all just a bunch of fucking crap anyway.

  24. Phillips, you are either a fucking retard or tone-deaf if you think the version of wonderwall “falls flat”. I haven’t even listened to Adams before I heard that song, and now I’m a fan. Don’t quit your day job, whatever that is.

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