Love is Hell pt. 1
By Jason GonulsenNovember 12, 2003
God only knows what Ryan Adams was going through when he wrote the songs on Love is Hell pt.1. Indeed, there are some great tunes here, and it’s a shame that his record company, Lost Highway, wanted to keep them on the shelf. As they now promote Rock N Roll, the official follow up to 2001’s Gold that was released on the same day as Love is Hell pt. 1, serving as an entirely different body of work; you will not hear them say a word about this 8-song EP.
The bottom line is that Love is Hell pt.1
deserves your attention. It could easily serve as a soundtrack to a blockbuster drama or horror movie about your so-called ordinary life. Each song, including a dreamy cover of Oasis’ “Wonderwall,” tells its own heartbreaking, emotional story in a dead honest way that few like Adams can pull off. The EP’s best songs, “This House is Not for Sale” and a lonesome piano ballad called “Shadowlands,” can easily explain why his label deemed the disc “too dark.” The latter is set in a world with amphetamines and roaches (sound familiar?), where “sometimes you just can't be a man.” It begins with just Adams and a piano and ends with a two-minute full band instrumental that leaves you wondering how the story ends. As if Adams hasn’t done this to us before.
But that is what is wonderful about this collection of tunes. Throughout the disc, Adams puts the ball in the listener’s court to decide the fate of each story. As he desperately declares, “I’m all yours,” at the end of “World War 24,” you become convinced that he is personally talking to you. And for most of the tunes, his lyrics are equally as direct. During the relentless title track, Adams screams that “love is hell” over and over again. The song serves as an effective way for Adams to pour his heart out, although God forbid it ever becomes a karaoke hit (hint: wear earplugs, the expensive ones). I can just picture it now: depressed man with whiskey bottle, stumbling over to the mic in a crowded bar, with one goal in mind -tinnitus for all of those in love!
Just like love itself, this album is reckless beyond belief. Although Adams may term it “suicide music,” ironically, the way I see it, these are the kinds of tunes that will keep his career as a musician alive. So go ahead, open that door. Ryan is waiting.