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Ryan proves the record company wrong...
on 3 November 2003
The release of this first of two EPs coincides with the release of Ryan Adams' third solo album proper (not including last year's demos and offcuts collection, Demolition), Rock'n'Roll. The story goes that after $250,000 worth of recordings, Ryan presented his new album, entitled Love Is Hell, to his record company. Apparently, they refused to release it, saying that it didn't represent Ryan's best work... With Love Is Hell stuck in limbo, Ryan went off with a friend, drummer Johnny Yerington, and recorded Rock'n'Roll over the space of a weekend, at a cost of just $5000 (which Ryan put on his credit card).
Well, having heard both this and Rock'n'Roll, I'm here to tell you that the record company got it quite spectacularly wrong. While Rock'n'Roll is not disappointing by any means, and does exactly what it says on the tin - which is have fun - Love Is Hell is simply better. While Rock'n'Roll may be good, Love Is Hell is great.
Here we see Ryan at his most fragile, atmospheric, and even slightly tortured. Witness "The Shadowlands", where Ryan claims that "Most people never find a love", or Avalanche, where he says "I taught you how to feel, but you just feel numb"... The prime example of this though is "Afraid Not Scared", where Ryan's desire to write a "druggy suicide record - something drastic" is fully realised - "I'm really dying in here, and I'm afraid - no I'm scared... I'm getting really cold, and I'm looking at you, and you're not moving..."
Most fascinating of all is Adams' fascinating reworking of Oasis' Wonderwall. Let's put it this way - Noel Gallagher wasn't kidding when he told Ryan "It's your song now".
For anyone who has been even vaguely interested by Ryan's two excellent previous solo albums, Heartbreaker and Gold, this is well worth investing in - and for any fans of Ryan's music, this is a must buy... The addition of two bonus tracks, Caterwaul and Halloween, make this almost an album proper - so if you're deciding between Love Is Hell or Rock'n'Roll - Love Is Hell is the only sensible choice... Shame Ryan's record company didn't realise that...