Reviewed by Matt Dentler, Fri., Jan. 9, 2004
Ryan AdamsRock N Roll (Lost Highway)
Ryan AdamsLove Is Hell Pt. 1 (Lost Highway)
Ryan AdamsLove Is Hell Pt. 2 (Lost Highway)
Ryan Adams could be the new Kurt Cobain. No other self-destructive rock songwriter today sneaks as much defiant venom into accessible pop/rock assaults. This goes beyond the Nirvana homage "Note to Self: Don't Die" on one of three new Ryan releases. The Rock N Roll track even transcends the bitter smirk he wears on his two acoustic EPs, Love Is Hell Pts. 1 & 2. Adams' third, fourth, and fifth solo studio albums are the result of his Lost Highway label dismissing the down-and-out Love Is Hell in favor of the rollicking Roll. Avoiding file-sharing purgatory, Hell is good enough that it was released anyway -- in two halves. The sum of these parts is the most engaging rock whole created in 2003. The strength resides in the fact that you can't help but believe every word he sings. When Adams cries, "Does anybody want to take me home?" on said same Rock N Roll track, he comes off like Morrissey, but you still believe him. When he sings about being as "bloody as the day I was born" on "1974," he sounds as if he's still dripping wet. There's a combo of authenticity, audacity, and originality about Adams that's unmatched among most young rock & rollers today. The Love Is Hell discs are far more dense and dark, making the songs a fun challenge to crack open, though it isn't difficult to determine what a no-brainer it must have been for Lost Highway to favor the brilliant Roll over the more spotty Hell discs. All the same, the delicate melodies of "Political Scientist" and a surprisingly smart cover of Oasis' "Wonderwall," both on Hell Pt. 1, make for a welcome respite from the harder Roll tracks. Maybe Adams can't hide his influences to save his life, but unlike his influences, he makes the kind of self-deprecating Rock N Roll that might save it instead.
(Rock N Roll)
(Love Is Hell Pt. 1)
(Love Is Hell Pt. 2)