Not surprisingly, the piss-poor melange of rehashed nu-wave/eighties/beer rock that Ryan Adams had the balls (watermelon sized) to release has taken a substantial beating in recent weeks; his back-catalogue denouncing Dublin show was slated to the extend that it now looks like a poorly erected roof, and the previously slavering broadsheets and 'intelligent' music press virtually disowned the poor boy.
And why not? Especially when he releases a sister set of records at the same time that reveals by contrast just how lumpen and lazy 'Rock N Roll' really was. 'Love Is Hell Part 1' quietly appeared on shelves the same day and offers a much more cohesive and ahem, traditionalist approach to the art of Ryan Adams songwriting. Slow burning moody guitar epics vie with sparse acoustic tracks for your attention, which is never less than absolute.
Opening duo 'Political Scientist' and 'Afraid Not Sunday' both uncoil moodily into grandiose rockers ala Coldplay and early Radiohead, with the latter pulling heartstrings with a soaring guitar coda. '_This House Is Not For Sale_' sounds like the Whiskeytown track it originally was - i.e. great, and 'Wonderwall' has been reinterpreted as a sparse, stripped-down meditation on celestial-soul love. It's enough to make you forget every slow dance in every bad club in Britain for the last ten years.
The breathy, skeletal 'Shadowlands' is a counterpiece to 'Gold''s 'Sylvia Plath' and the highlight of the album, 'World War 24', is a wonderful song that just pulls away from power-ballad hell and veers into 'glorious' territory at the crucial moment.
Apparently (though Adams himself is being suitably diplomatic) **Universal/Lost Highway** initially refused to release 'Love Is Hell Part 1', citing it as far too gloomy and depressing, opting for the cack-handed 'Rock N Roll' instead. This album only crept out by ways of compromise. You can debate all you like about what that says on the state of the music industry when even a record label like Lost Highway bullies its star artist into producing radio-friendly but lesser-quality material, but what is much less debatable and infinitely more relieving is that 'Love Is Hell' is proof that Ryan Adams is still on form and as splendid as ever. When he's allowed to be.
8Gareth Dobson's Score