Ryan Adams – Love Is Hell, Part 2


Ryan Adams – Love Is Hell, Part 2
Lost Highway
December 9, 2003

What It Sounds Like:  Alternative country from the ex-lead singer of Whiskeytown.  Always mysterious, always smoking, and always thought-provoking.

Love Is Hell, Part 2 is essentially the second half of Adams’ full length record Love Is Hell.  As a prelude, he released parts one and two in 2003, and put them together for a full length in 2004.  Any reason in particular?  Maybe it was a money making scheme.  Maybe it was just to try to brake the cycle of releasing one full length record.  In either case – these tracks were not rushed.  This is a thought-out and carefully planned release that needs to be paid attention to, and not glanced over.

I have always found this release refreshing.  Adams certainly is no stranger to experimentation, and some of his songs can get a little twisted, reaching into longer lengths and near ambient sonic structures.  This seven song effort gives us just enough to be satisfied, but not too much that we feel that we’ve tried to engorge ourselves, emotionally or musically.  I can enjoy Heartbreaker, but fifteen songs is a stretch for any musician to try to pull off on one record without getting repetitive or boring.  How many ways can you come up with fresh ideas for one sitting?

Ryan Adams isn’t perfect, but he’s certainly won me over here.  Whether it’s the piano in the foyer of a hotel for a late-night session in album opener My Blue Manhattan, or the indie alternative, chilled out rock of City Rain, City Streets, Adams continues to weave us into his tales of ache and hurt without ever divulging too much into his true sources.  We don’t want him too.  He’s a mysterious stranger with a guitar in the corner of the room that secretly the guys want to be, and not secretly, the girls want to fix, and be with more than anything else in the world.

Forget if he treats you well or not.  This is Ryan Adams.  He’s the Gosling of the singer/songwriter world on the dark side.  One swipe of the hair and one puff of the cigarette, and any impressionable girl would be putty in his hands.

It’s alluring, you can’t deny it.

Baby, just stay asleep as you already are as he sings to you in I See Monsters.  The world’s a cold place.  You’re better off to stay as far away as you can.  Even as he tells the tale of a kindhearted mother in Thank You Louise, he knows he can’t save her from the heartbreak that the world brings.  Kids die.  Friends get hooked on drugs.  People make foolish decisions.  You can’t save them from themselves.  I mean, Ryan is fighting to simply save himself as well.  How many times are his stories simply autobiographies disguised as outer observation?  I’m sure it happens more times than not.

My personal favorite by far the gin-soaked bluesy album closer, Hotel Chelsea Nights.  Adams’ vocals are drenched in reverb, and he sounds like a cross between the New Radical’s Gregg Alexander and that dude from Eddie & The Cruisers who actually sung the songs in the movie (John Cafferty).  It’s an awesome tour that seems to pass way quicker than five minutes.  There’s some small solos, a smoke-filled section of female backup vocals, and an almost shoegaze-like wall of sound midway though – all a backdrop to trying to get over a woman who lives in the hotel room right down the hall.  How do you do it when you can’t separate yourself from her?  There’s no moving forward when it’s right there – staring at you all day long.  Ryan knows it – I feel like getting rid of all my things / Maybe just disappear into the fog /The traffic roars, my stomach screams / Like a gang of angry dogs.

It’s a solid set of songs from an individual who knows he’s flawed.

Honesty.  It’ll get you a long way.


If you had to listen to two tracks:  Hotel Chelsea Nights / I See Monsters


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