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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Love Is Hell

(Lost Highway Records)
Part 1 Released 11/4/03
Part 2 Released on 12/9/03
Released as a full length album on 5/3/04

"Love Is Hell is something that I totally believe in.... It's completely unstylized and an absolutely reckless album, and ...the place where I was the most myself and freest." - Ryan Adams (Paste Magazine December/January 2004)
"I've been told that Love Is Hell only sold 30,000 copies - a disaster. But I don't care. It's not a disaster to me. I just think that records belong in the world..... Once in awhile you have to do something weird." - Ryan Adams (Clash, May/June 2007)

The Reviews

"Love Is Hell is an exquisite portrait of the artist as a tired young man: tired of love, tired of fame and, most of all, tired of lonely nights spent in the Chelsea Hotel, where this fifteen-song New York City serenade plays out. With Adams trading in his raspy vocals and honky-tonk instrumentation for lofty croons over violins, cellos and piano, Love Is Hell aims for Nick Drake, Morrissey, and more recent Britpop luminaries. The results are painful, yet exhilarating..." (Bill Crandall - Rolling Stone)

"one of the most bleak yet powerful dissections of the human heart since Dylan's Blood on the Tracks..." (The Telegraph)

"If Love Is Hell has the edge over Rock & Roll it's because it's more carefully considered in its production and writing, and he manages to hide his allusions better than he does on Rock N Roll...... Here, he shoots for the Smiths and winds up in Jeff Buckley territory tempered with a dash of Radiohead, circa - The Bends...." (AllMusic.com)

"Employing former Smiths producer John Porter, Adams shoots for a sound that incorporates his country-rock roots while approaching a mood close to the softer moments of The Smiths' The Queen Is Dead .... It's hard to tell at first how good this material is, which has always been Adams' problem: His melodies flow so easily and his arrangements are so basic that his songs can take half a dozen listens to bloom, if they ever do. But since Love Is Hell features some of Adams' best lyrics since his Whiskeytown daysófull of urban decay, worldly romance, and frozen moments, it's easier to wait for the set's subtleties to float up." (Noel Murray - the Onion)

1. Political Scientist
2. Afraid Not Scared
3. This House is Not for Sale
4. Anybody Wanna Take Me Home?
5. Love is Hell
6. Wonderwall (Noel Gallagher)
7. The Shadowlands
8. World War 24
9. Avalanche
10. My Blue Manhattan
11. Please Do Not Let Me Go
12. City Rain, City Streets
13. I See Monsters
14. English Girls Approximately
15. Thank You Louise
16. Hotel Chelsea Nights

Ryan Adams - Vocals, Guitar, Piano
New York Band
Paul Garisto - Drums
Johnny Pisano - Bass
Joe McGinty -Piano
Johnny McNabb - Guitar
Marianne Faithful - Background Vocals
New Orleans Band
Greg Leisz - Guitar
Ricky Fataar - Drums
Hutch Hutchinson - Bass
Ian McLagen - B3, Wurlitzer
Jon Cleary - Piano, Wurlitzer, Guitar
Ruth Gottlieb - Violin
Sarah Wilson - Cello
Julie Delgado - Background Vocals
Debra Parson - Background Vocals
Produced by John Porter and Ryan Adams
Recorded by Joe McGrath at Piety Street Studios, New Orleans, LA and Cello Studios, Hollywood, CA; and Tom Schick at Globe Studios, New York, NY
Mixed by John Porter and Joe McGrath at Cello Studios, Hollywood, CA

Love is Hell was split up into 2 different sessions. Below is the breakdown of songs based on Ryan Adams message board posts from the studio:

New York: Politcal Scientist, Afraid Not Scared, This House is Not for Sale, Anybody Wanna Take Me Home?, When the Music Don't Come, Love is Hell, English Girls Approximately, Caterwaul, City Rain City Streets, Halloween, Fuck the Universe.

New Orleans - Twice as Bad as Love (Day 1 or 2), Thank You Louise(Day 1 or 2), My Blue Manhattan(Day 1 or 2), My Father's Son(Day 1 or 2), I See Monsters(Day 1 or 2), Please Do Not Let Me Go(Day 3), The Shadowlands(Day 3), Stumblin' through the Dark(Day 3), Hard Way to Fall(Day 3), Black Clouds(Day 4), Chelsea Nights(Day 5), Jeane(Day 5), Avalanche(Day 5), Vampire(Day 5), World War 24(Day 6), Witch Hunt(Day 6), Gimme Sunshine(Day 6), Thank You Louise(Day 7), Wonderwall(Day 7), I See Monsters(Day 7), Rock N Roll, Murder Sex Death

Love is Hell is without a doubt, one of the darkest yet most rewarding albums in the Ryan Adams catalog. Originally released as a pair of EPs alongside Rock N Roll, it remains one of the most troubled and misunderstood albums of the decade.

Between the Spring of 2001 and Fall of 2002, Ryan Adams recorded over five albums worth of new material, intended for the follow-up to Gold. For one reason or another, Lost Highway felt that none of the albums were quite good enough. So instead some of these records were left in the vaults, while a handful of songs were released on the album - Demolition.

Deciding it was time to move away from the pop and alt-country trappings of his past, Ryan set out to create a darker, moodier, more broken sounding album. A long-time obsessive Smiths fan, he reached out to none other than Smiths guitarist - Johnny Marr for assistance. After hearing Ryan's gloomy batch of new songs, Marr suggested that he get in touch with friend and ex-Smiths/Roxy Music producer - John Porter.

John Porter, a master at creating that rainy day/doom and gloom/Manchester, England - sound, was a perfect fit for what Ryan was looking for. And in September of 2002, the two of them along with a backing band (as well as a brief appearance from Marianne Faithful), recorded a bulk of the songs for Love is Hell at Globe Studios, in New York City. After the sessions, he said this in an interview:

"It's done. We went into the studio on Monday (Sept 2) and we finished on Friday (Sept 6). I stopped for two hours on Wednesday to go to the art show, then we went back that night and cut two more tracks. It's 11 songs, no B-sides, and it's called Love is Hell. I can't even listen to it yet because it's so spooky. It sounds like someone possessed. It's like someone on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Or on the verge of a nervous breakthrough. The minute it was done I felt better. It's definitely the most intense record I've ever done." - Ryan Adams

After recording, Ryan went out on the road for a three month solo tour. During the two legs of touring, he debuted many of the new songs which were warmly received by fans across the US and Europe. Unfortunately, Lost Highway weren't as thrilled with the new material as the fans were, deeming them too depressing and experimental for release. Soldiering on, Ryan decided to cut short, part of a tour opening for the Rolling Stones in order to lay down another batch of songs in New Orleans.

Armed with over 20 more songs and a more experienced backing band, Ryan Adams and John Porter went back to work at creating Love is Hell in February of 2003. Besides recording plenty of newly written songs, attempts were also made to re-record songs from the Globe Studio Sessions. According to Ryan, this led to some butting of heads over certain songs sounding too polished.

"I sabotaged [the New Orleans sessions]. They tried to make the guitars sound pretty, and I wanted them to sound really nasty and fucked up, like on the original New York recordings. I erased a bunch of tapes and said I didn't want to use any of the new versions. It was a fucking nightmare.' - Ryan Adams (Uncut January 2004)
When Lost Highway heard the new and improved Love is Hell, the label was once again at a loss for how to market such a strange album. There was talk of releasing a box set containing Love is Hell along with several of the unreleased albums from the last year and a half. But nothing ever came of it. President of Lost Highway - Luke Lewis said the following:

"It was a big departure.... The album wasn't rejected, but the label didn't rush to schedule it, either. I told him I thought he could do better... but I tell him that all the time. On a business level, I could've done fine with Love is Hell. But we both knew..... he was suffering from overhype. I said 'Are you sure this is gonna be the statement you wanna make?" (Marc Spitz - "Who the F**k is Ryan Adams"" - Spin Magazine)

Feeling somewhat rejected, Ryan Adams retreated back to New York City where he briefly gave up playing music all together. The album was yet another casualty of major label warfare - sealed up, packed away, and stuck in the vault alongside the other lost recordings of Ryan Adams. Slowly and with the help of some good friends, he was able to get out of his slump, and recorded the louder than bombs album - Rock N Roll (which his label loved!). Bargaining with Lost Highway, Ryan handed over his self-financed record - Rock N Roll, in exchange for their agreement to release Love is Hell.

The bargain worked. However instead of being released as a complete album, Love is Hell was split up as two separate EPs, and was never given the promotional push of Rock N Roll. Over time, the Love is Hell EPs garnered a fair amount of praise from both fans and critics. Eventually, Lost Highway decided to release it as a full length in May of 2004.

My Review

This is definitely one of the strangest and most rewarding Ryan Adams albums that I've heard. On first listen, I remember being pretty disappointed by the simplicity and sour mood of the whole album, but over the years it has aged like a fine wine. Now, every time I listen to Love is Hell, I've come across beautiful little nuances and subtleties within each track that I didn't hear before.

Love is Hell is not the type of record you put on to cheer someone up. It's one of the more depressing albums you'll likely hear in your lifetime. But in my opinion, there are no albums past or present like this one. Love is Hell wears the Smiths influence well, but at its' core remains primarily a folk album only dirtied up in a sad gothic haze.

Some of the best moments of Love is Hell are from b-sides and bonus tracks recorded during the sessions. They tend to be a little more interesting, weirder, and more experimental than what was released on the album. Two of my personal favorites are the shoegazey "Twice as Bad as Love", and the creepy "Fuck the Universe" which sounds like Marc Smith of the Fall fronting the Jesus and Mary Chain.

Definitely Essential! But maybe not the best place to start.

Key Tracks: I recommend tracking down all 23 of the songs recorded from these sessions. All of them are brilliant! There are also a few floating around that weren't officially released like "When the Music Don't Come" and "Hard Way to Fall". They're equally fantastic.

Other Versions/Bonus Cuts worth checking out
In 2003, import versions of Love is Hell Part 1 were released with "Caterwaul" and "Halloween" as bonus tracks

In 2003, import versions of Love is Hell Part 2 were released with "Fuck the Universe" and "Twice as Bad as Love" as bonus tracks.

In 2003, a 7" promo of the song "Hey Parker, It's Christmas" was released as a free promotional giveaway with copes of Love is Hell Part 2. Although the song may not have been recorded during the Love is Hell Sessions, the production is very similar.

In 2004, Love is Hell was re-released as a full album rather as 2 EPs. The new re-release featured an extended version of "Anybody Wanna Take Me Home?".

In 2004, Love is Hell was also released as a limited edition 2 x 10" Vinyl Album.

In 2004, "Wonderwall" was released as a single in several formats. None of the bonus tracks came from the Love is Hell Sessions, but featured the following songs: "This is It" (acoustic), "I Want to Go Home", "Suspicion", and "One By One".

In 2007, a new import version of Love is Hell from Japan, featured a bonus disc with "Halloween", "Caterwaul", "Fuck the Universe", "Twice as Bad as Love", "My Father's Son", "Gimme Sunshine", and "Black Clouds" as bonus tracks.

In 2012, various solo versions of songs from the album were released on the live compilation - Live After Deaf.

In 2014, Love is Hell was re-released by Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs as 3 LP set including all the b-sides and bonus tracks. Also, the version of "Shadowlands" found on this reissue includes a completely different guitar solo.

"This House is Not for Sale" has been covered by Swedish Idol runner-up - Sebastian Karlsson.

"I See Monsters" has been covered by singer-songwriter Phil Roy.

"Avalanche" has been covered by Silverfish.

"The Shadowlands" has been covered by the Fray.

Random Notes

Other Songs Recorded During the Love is Hell Sessions
Hard Way to Fall - later re-recorded and released on Jacksonville City Nights
Jeane - later re-recorded and released as a bonus track on Jacksonville City Nights.
Rock N Roll - released on Rock N Roll
Witch Hunt, Vampire, Stumblin' Through the Dark, Murder Sex Death, and When the Music Don't Come were recorded but have yet to be released

Other Random Info:
"Wonderwall" was nominated for a Grammy for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance.

Ryan's cover of "Wonderwall" can be downloaded on the video game - Guitar Hero World Tour.
Sweet Videos
"This House is Not for Sale" on Jools Holland


  1. any chance you could post a link of the hard way to fall love is hell version?

  2. For Sbam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_Byz4Ih5IQ

    1. thanks for posting this! killer stuff

  3. Hi, thanks for all the great information on the site. Do you know if the different guitar solo version of The Shadowlands is on this Studio Masters version of Love Is Hell?


    Thanks for any reply!

  4. Hey. I recently heard the MFSL vinyl version and, unfortunately, it contains the shorter Rock N Roll edit/mix of "Anybody Wanna Take Me Home?" instead of the full album version. Sigh. :'(

  5. Where can I Illegally download this album for free?

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