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Love us Hell’ Perfect for Gloomy Weather

Observer Scene | Thursday, March 27, 2008

Its springtime and snow is falling in South Bend. Thankfully, Ryan Adams has provided a moody accompaniment to the melancholy spaces outside our windows. His album “Love is Hell” carefully exposes the most dangerously emotive portions of the human heart and mind. Conceived in moments of heartbreak and questioning of the authenticity of love, the record explores a vast range of experiences and ideas, eventually realizing love is indeed hell.

Opening with the track “Political Scientist,” Adams sings of a dysfunctional couple, both political scientists. Raddled by the passage of years and a hollow sense of love for each other, they exist within a world of uneasiness and bad memories. Adams sings, “Her husband’s divorced but he treats her that way of course / Because he needs her just like he needs medicine / She forgets to write him anyway / What’s red and white and nearly over / Political scientist.” While the lyrics are somewhat unclear and vague, they highlight the confusion between the husband and wife, emotions the couple clearly cannot understand.

A key element of the record is the intermixing of songs inspired by the stories and experiences of others amidst the hyper-personal, depressing songs inspired by Adams’ own intimate experiences. One of the most delicate tracks on the record is the near-heartbreaking “Please Do Not Let Me Go.” Without a doubt written at the end of a relationship, Adams sings “True love ain’t that hard to find / Not that you will ever know / Would you leave for awhile? / Please do not let me go.” It’s simple, cutting and deeply poignant; one of the true gems on the record.

One track likely inspired by the experiences of another, is “Shadowlands.” A stirring portrait of a decaying family thrust into the torments of separation, drug addiction and broken love, the song subtly renders their saddest moments into the structure of the song with care and sympathy. In a tone that seems more rooted in lamentation than song, Adams sings “She’s angry like a salesman / Who just couldn’t make a sale / Threw the wedding ring in the sewer / And damned them all to hell / While the roaches climb the walls / From the hotel where he calls / Most people never find a love.” Not straying from the obvious thesis of the album, Adams gives voice to a moment and a history understood by most everyone, yet rarely acknowledged with such honesty of tragic perspective.

While Adams rarely features cover songs on his records, “Love is Hell” features a brilliant cover of the Oasis hit “Wonderwall.” With a bluesy melody, the song seems fit to be heard in the back of a late night piano bar.

Practically every song on the record is stellar. Yet it is not a record for sunny days and fresh romance.

It’s a record for the those late night hours staring through the window into the blackness, just as it’s a record for those late March days when you simply cannot believe that the daylight is still gray and the snow is still falling in South Bend.

Contact James Costa at jcosta1@nd.edu.