Ryan Adams

Love Is Hell, Pt. 2

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A month after the first volume of his long-delayed, split-in-two Love Is Hell project hit the stores -- think of it as the aural equivalent of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, only not as fun and not shot in ShawScope -- Ryan Adams trotted out the sequel, a seven-song EP that presents the conclusion to his mope-rock labor of love. If the first installment was drenched in Smiths-ian aspirations, this has a bit of a stronger singer/songwriter bent, with many of the songs rooted in folky acoustic guitars and direct allusions to Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen in song titles. Of course, Adams hasn't left his desire to make an '80s college rock record totally behind, as the heavily processed, flattened echoed guitar on "City Rain, City Streets" proves, but there's enough of a difference between the two EPs to see why they were divided in such a fashion. That said, they share a similar musical aesthetic and are more like separate sides of the same LP than two different records, and both are diminished slightly by existing separately, since it lessens the overall impact of the project and forces comparisons between the two EPs. And in those comparisons, Love Is Hell, Pt. 2 pales with its predecessor, sounding less of a unified work and more like a collection of solid B-sides without a proper home. There's some good work here -- "My Blue Manhattan" is suitably torchy, "English Girls Approximately" an effective Dylan and Paul Westerberg fusion, "Thank You Louise" a nice blend of the Buckleys, and the closer, "Hotel Chelsea Nights," is one of his best songs, a mildly anthemic soulful anthem with vague overtones of "Purple Rain." Like the best moments from both Love Is Hell and Rock N Roll, these tracks illustrate Adams' strength as a synthesist, but that's part of the problem -- they become individual moments, not a whole. Perhaps if they were released as part of a full-length Love Is Hell these songs would have gained resonance from their context, but as released, it's an enjoyable but slightly underwhelming conclusion to a promising but ultimately deeply flawed project.

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