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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Love Is Hell Pt.1
Format: Audio CD|Change
Price:£5.32+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

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...
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on 23 December 2003
Record company’s huh?
On offering what was to be his third studio album proper for listening they where taken a back. Claiming that the songs he had offered were "too alternative rock," "incredibly depressing" and "not your best stuff." Well perhaps they were correct on two counts. You can only imagine that the men in suits were a little anguished and disappointment at not getting another “Ryan Adams Alt-Country pin up boy” collection.
So Ryan goes off and records his “angry” rock statement that is “Rock N Roll” thus leaving his now estranged third album spilt into two EPs worth of material.
So was the record company right? Well sure. Ryan is maturing and moving on, evolving his sound for a different audience, perhaps. But the quality remains and then some. With former Smiths producer John Porter at the helm the production is at times sparse but always sympathetic. “Political Scientist” starts with simple piano lines building to a caustic ending. “Afraid Not Scared” has more of a, hold your breath, Radiohead style acoustic sway to it whilst the title track rocks as hard as it needs to. His stripped back version of “Wonderwall” is a rarity in this day of age of being a decent cover, before the painfully beautiful “The Shadowlands” just breaks your heart.
What were left with is then, contrary to what his record company had suggested, is a 35 minute piece of musical tapestry that is equal of anything that Ryan has offered previously. You have to feel robbed though, at the fact this could possibly have been the best album of 2003. Never mind. Buy, cherish and have your heart broken into millions of little pieces.
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on 13 November 2003
My fellow reviewers have already gone into the songs on this fanatstic album ( EP ? At 44 odd minutes ?)in great detail but I'd just like to make the point that it's not all whispered , tortured vocals & melancholy piano - Love Is Hell itself rocks in a way no Adams song has before.
Avalanche has to be the finest song he has recorded so far in a career littered with gems.Depending on your point of view the lyrics are either genius or total nonsense but he has that gift of the great songwriters that a line like " she falls apart in the avalanche,fades out like a dance" somehow seems to tell you all you need to know.
I think we can safely say that this is the point where the tag "alt.country" is finally laid to rest too,with a track like (bonus track ) Caterwaul starting quietly with some almost prog rock time changes before building to a coda with atmospheric drums & echoing guitar over a young french lady talking away all in a style which just brings to my mind Pink Floyd.
I kid you not.This will be looked on as a classic I'm sure in the not too distant future.
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on 3 November 2003
I'll be the first to admit it, I've haven't really heard much of Ryan Adams before today. The odd song from Gold which I liked but not much to say I was a fan. Reading a recent review for his latest album 'Rock'n'Roll' that described it as "stadium rock for the twentyfirst century" didn't really catch my interest but reading further on I unearthed a small paragraph that mentioned he had originally submitted an album called 'Love is Hell' which Lost Highway refused to release on the basis of it being "too dark, bleak and depressing". Well, being into dark, bleak and depressing stuff I was annoyed to read that Ryan then wrote a commercial album in the form of the previously mentioned Rock'n'Roll. As an afterthought the review mentioned that the material intended for the 'Love is Hell' album will be split onto two EP's; one released on the same day as Rock'n'Roll (Love is Hell part 1) and the other in December. Well, hooray!
Oh, Lost Highway! What have you done!? This first EP is brilliant! From the washed out imagery of 'Political Scientist' and the Radiohead-esque 'Afraid not Scared' to the Epic and dark 'Shadowlands' and the totally devastating highlight 'Avalanche', Ryan bleeds out lyrics with the softest of voices backed by the melachonoly sounds of acoustic guitars and reverbed pianos. It would be great if this EP outsold the Rock'n'Roll album because the term 'cult status' is written all over these songs.
If this is Hell then I can't wait for the second helping due in December! Bring it on.
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on 6 November 2003
There arn't many words that would do justice to just how good the first part of this Ep really is. as you would have heard by now, Lost Highway really did get this one wrong, But we should count ourselves lucky that we even heard this Ep.
The Highlight of the Ep for me are tracks 5 and 6. Track 5 is the wonderfully re-arranged Wonderwall, Not even Noel Gallagher himself, could Manage to put the amount of Emotion into the song that Ryan does so very well. This has to be the best version of Wonderwall you will ever hear.
Track 6 is Shadowlands, Starting with just a Piano, Ryan murmers - "God Please Bring the Rain" Gives me goosebumps every time. No more than 3 minutes later and the song is in full flow, Then in comes a lead guitar that will really rip your heart in two.
I don't think anymore needs to be said other than What an Album he wanted us to hear.
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on 11 January 2004
According to Ryan Adams' record label, Lost Highway, releasing 'Love Is Hell pt 1' and the impending December release of the aptly named 'Love Is Hell pt 2' as an album would have been "career suicide".
Career suicide my ass. 'Love Is Hell pt 1' is atmospheric, desperate and sorrowful, infringing upon the drizzly realms of Doves and Elbow. The Strokes' Fabrizio Moretti plays drums on 'Halloween' while indie actress Leona Naess guest vocals on 'Caterwaul'. Adams wanted to make a "druggy suicide record…something that sounds like really cracking up" and he's done just that.
'Afraid not Scared' is a fragile guitar based track, a cover of Oasis' 'Wonderwall' is an acoustic, graceful affair while the soft lyrics and lingering piano chords of 'The Shadowlands' could easily have fit onto Adams' critically acclaimed second album 'Gold'.
The beautiful 'Avalanche' is the standout track and shows how talented Adams is as a singer as well as a songwriter. 'Love is Hell pt 1' is inspired and makes you wonder what kind of drugs Lost Highway were on to send him back to the studio to make 'Rock N Roll'.
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on 21 November 2003
Ryan Adams is the best songwriter in the world. Fact. If anyone ever doubted that then this record will surely confirm any doubts. His album proper for this year, Rock N Roll, may have been a toys-out-of-the-pram scraping together exercise to keep his record company satisfied, but this was the music he wanted the world to hear, and you can tell.
There are too many magical moments on here to pick out a specific favourite. Whether it's the way his version of Oasis' Wonderwall starts off like a melancholic slice of alt. country before tumbling downhill into a lush, teary ballad or the rock n roll tub thumping of This House is Not For Sale, it's all truly wonderful stuff.
In an ideal world, many will fail to be allured by a triplet of songs as good as anything in the Adams cannon. Firstly there's Shadowlands, which starts off like a re-working of Sweet Lil Gal before fanning out into gorgeous guitar outro. Or World War 24, which strangely manages to stomp along at a fair rate but still be genuinely moving. Best of all though is Avalanche, which is such a beautiful evocation of a relationship break-up that it should come with a health warning. The songs tag line 'She comes apart in the avalanche/Fades out like a dance' is surely one of the best metaphors for a break-up put on record. Ever. Fail to be moved by this song and you're not human.
The only thing more baffling than why Adams is not one of the world's biggest music stars, is that his record company had the cheek to throw this collection back in his face, claiming it wasn't good enough. Only they can explain that one. To the rest of us, this is truly special.
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#1 HALL OF FAMEon 14 November 2003
Ryan Adams was losing his allure- last year saw the patchy Demolition being released, a few great songs (Cry on Demand, Tomorrow) were tempered by rock & roll cliches (do we need any more songs called Desire or Hallelujah?) & songs that started off OK, prior to a descent into dullness (Nuclear,Starting to Hurt). Adams seemed too retro, the bad aspects of Gold tied in with this- as too the overrated Pnuemonia, the posthumous Whiskeytown album. Adams seemed to confuse quanitity with quality- the Jesse Malin album seemed too close to his own material & his hardcore punk album was more pointless retro (buy the original acts!) Love is Hell became a rumour, a return to the downer territory of solo debut Heartbreaker (2000) and his All Shook Down, Blood on the Tracks, Sister Lovers, or Tonight's the Night. Other downer albums hadn't surfaced before- The Suicide Notebooks- & it looked like Lost Highway had stopped this one coming out, rejecting it as "too dark" (amusingly this happened to Sheryl Crow & her fourth album- she was instructed to record more of the same- upbeat and MOR like her prior albums!) Which is why I'm cynical about the official album Rock & Roll- though I'll probably buy it on the strength of this set, completeness and the idea it probably isn't as patchy as Demolition.
Love is Hell does get a release, though why not as a stand-alone album? Splitting it into two is very Kill Bill, by the way! This 10-track ep precedes December's cheaper 7-track follow up- this comes with two bonus tracks, Caterwaul and Halloween. I'm a listener who knows bleak when he hears it, Love is Hell is dark, but it's not a vortex of misery like albums such as Red House Painters (Rollercoaster), Everclear (American Music Club), Tonight's the Night, Music for a New Society, or Berlin.
Political Scientist must rank as one of Adams finest songs- the co-production with John Porter (The Smiths) is amazing- somewhere between Daniel Lanois (Oh Mercy, Wrecking Ball) & prime Morrissey/Marr. Political Scientist is like the missing link between Jeff Buckley's The Sky is a Landfill and Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town. Afraid Not Scared reminds me for some reason of Velvet Underground's Lady Godiva's Operation & lyrically of Tom Waits' The Ocean Doesn't Want Me. The lyrics are bleak, yet the music divine- I suppose it's not far from things like Mark Eiztel's Wild Sea & Red House Painters' Ocean Beach...
The House is Not for Sale is more upbeat musically, Adams not far from Paul Westerberg territory (he has two albums out also- probably more deserving of popularity than Adams, as Adams would be nowhere without him)& maybe a little Grant Lee Buffalo, with a hint of classic jingly-jangly guitars. The chorus/mantra "Calm down!" is perhaps the sound of an alt-country Radiohead? The title track is another upbeat rocker, reminding me of the territory of Whiskeytown's masterpiece Stranger's Almanac (1996) It does sound anthemic and like a great radio-single...what is up with Lost Highway? Are they deaf? The subtle background piano chimes are gorgeous, incidentally!
The cover of Oasis' Wonderwall has been in the Adams live repetoire for a few years, Gallagher & co often bore me senseless & I never thought I'd want to hear such an overplayed song again. Adams strips it back to a minimal Nebraska-like blues, an alternate delivery of an anthem, that even reminds me a little of Robert Plant! Still not sure about the notion of the song- after all you're my obscure electronic soundtrack by George Harrison for an equally obscure film? The Shadowlands continues the atmospheric feel, not far from Gold's Sylvia Plath, again I thought of Springsteen, notably Nebraska. Perhaps this is down to the stark feel and images of love and rain...
World War 24 has that jangly-acoustic guitar feel common to bands like The Replacements (16 Blue) & The Smiths(Well I Wonder)- the denoument of the song "Oh baby bring me down...I'm all yours" & the escalating guitars are wonderful! & it's great to note that Ruth Gottlieb features on violin on several songs- she memorably contributed to two great albums of the late 1990s: Jack's The Jazz Age & Tindersticks' A Simple Pleasure! The ep proper ends with Avalanche, a title that obviously nods to Leonard Cohen, a pretty piano-driven lull...it might be dark and atmospheric, but it's not a bleak grope in the abyss. Let's recall that very popular albums have been dark- Astral Weeks, Automatic for the People, Blood on the Tracks, Tunnel of Love...
The bonus tracks are as consistent as the rest- Caterwaul reminding me a little of Neil Young piano-ditties like The Bridge, Love in Mind & Soldier. Or Paul Westerberg's Self Defence- then the band come in with wonderful female harmonies from Leona Naess (who is she? must find out!!) The conclusion Halloween is back in acoustic climes, often the best locale for Adams, & it appears to have the drummer from The Strokes on it!
Love is Hell is brilliant, it's not a morose downer dirge- contrast it to something that is- e.g. most output of Swans, Red House Painters, or Nico! It's up there with the best of this year- currently vying with Blemish (David Sylvian- which is very bleak), HoboSapiens (John Cale) & Stumble Into Grace (Emmylou Harris) as my favourite album of the year. I think the Kill Bill Volume I of contemporary music is a good tag- in both cases I hope Part II is as great as the first part. A must purchase from a frequently great artist...must check out Rock & Roll now!
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on 9 November 2003
There has been a lot of intrigue surrounding this album, due to Lost Highway's deep reluctance to release it in any format whatsoever. It has been described as "too dark" and as containing "songs to commit suicide by". Many writers have compared this album to Neil Young's seminal "Tonight's the Night" or "On the Beach" due to its bleakness and opaque lyrics.
Having very rapidly familiarised myself with this album as it, unlike for example, the Strokes, improves and intregates itself into your consciousness upon every new listen, I can assure any listener who delights in such works by Neil Young that they will not be disappointed by this album. The howling guitars wail like banshees in the background in the sublime "Shadowlands", which builds and builds... the drums not even kicking in until the presentation of the lyrics is complete. "Wonderwall" is covered and transformed into a tense eulogy of hope and frustration; the meaningless word "Wonderwall" shines with significance when uttered from the sombre lips of Adams.
The lyrics show a depth of understanding and comprehension of the world that is miles ahead of any singer songwriter of his generation. As with Dylan, Young and Cohen, Adams is not writing simply to fulfil record contracts or please fans, he writes with a sense of romantic urgency.
Though the delivery of the lyrics seem to be of central importance to Adam's art, his band (as did Young's in the "Tonight's the Night" era and Dylan's during "Blonde on Blonde") truly understand these songs and use their instruments as mediums to poroduce the most accurate frame for his words. All of Adams' previous albums seem to be stages in the development of this. The only possible rivals who create the same twlight, windswept songs that are bleak, yet brimming with inspiration human passion is Doves on their albums "Lost Souls" and "Last Broadcast".
In a social climate that is full of imitators whining, sans passion, it is of indescribable relief that Adams (and Doves) exist. Forget that these songs are bleak; if it takes such a sense of desolation and alienation to provoke a work of art so full of humanity and passion then to complain (as does Steve Sutherland in NME) that you want something more uplifting is to be blind to the world around you. To experience life, one must endure the lows in order to truly appreciate the highs.
"Love is Hell" is an album written by someone truly alive.
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on 4 December 2003
CD with 8 (or 10 depending on cd version) tracks and over 40 minutes of music its difficult to see this as 'E.P'. Whatever it is, it is fantastic. Not the official follow up to 'gold' its difficult to see what the record company actually wanted from ryan adams. I was expecting this really dark, experimental record that showed no glimpses of previous material. I was wrong. 'This house is not for sale' is one of the catchiest things he has ever recorded, this alongside some of his best material (in my humble opinion) 'political scientist' and 'world war 24'
'wonderwall' is certainly no direct rip off of the oasis version but a ryan adams-like song that has incorporated the lyrics. no bad songs present on cd. all is all, cant wait for part two, and the many more albums that will likely follow from the most prolific singer-songwriter in the modern age!
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