Adams’ career is fast becoming a blizzard of lost possibilities and abandoned trails, with his ‘proper’ album releases, such as Gold and Rock’n’Roll, punctuated by closet-clearing collections of outtakes like Demolition and now Love Is Hell Pt 1, the first instalment of the album supposedly deemed too much of a downer to be the ‘proper’ follow-up to Gold. You can see why: even judged alongside such unflinching melancholia as Lou Reed’s Berlin and David Ackles’ first album, Love Is Hell Pt 1 is a tough listen, an utterly gloomungous affair with barely a crack of light piercing the lowering clouds of misery. Even the cover of “Wonderwall” is rendered depressing, with the original’s plaintive quality replaced here by a wretched, downcast tone bordering on despair. The romantic cataclysm which presumably inspired these songs is allegorised variously as Titanic-style naval disaster (“Afraid Not Scared”), drug comedown (“World War 24”) and ghost-ridden empty house (“This House is Not For Sale”), while elsewhere the devastated protagonist pores over old photos and listens vainly for her car in the driveway (“Avalanche”), and spreads his misery around a party (“Love Is Hell”).
Musically, the album’s marked by glum piano chords and enervated acoustic guitar parts, with Adams’ vocals shattered and lifeless?except for the melodramatic “Afraid Not Scared”, where he seems to be attempting an ill-judged imitation of Starsailor. The most engaging piece by far is the bonus track “Halloween”, which ends the album on a positive note completely out of kilter with the preceding misery.
As Dylan demonstrated with Blood On The Tracks, it’s entirely possible to transmute personal pain into art and have the results be both enjoyable and life-affirming. But this is no Blood On The Tracks.