Ryan Adams knows sour love. Throughout his stint as Whiskeytown's lead singer, his debut album, Heartbreaker, and now with his sophomore effort, Gold, Adams continues his renowned tradition of chronicling bad relationships with great songs.
With Gold, however, Adams elevates the earlier themes of longing, pain and rejection into a 16 song opus of raw, visceral confession laced with his trademark guitar twang and crisp, pealing voice. Equipped with a newborn confidence and a taste for cigarettes, hard liquor and handguns, Adams is deft at using the steel and acoustic guitar to simultaneously retrace his Nashville upbringing while creating something fresh and new with flairs of simmering pop and even a latent dash of punk.
There is the heart-wrenching "Harder Now That it's Over," which deals with jail time and a severely broken relationship. Lines such as "When I threw that drink in that guy's face/ it was just to piss you off/ `Cause honey it's over/ it's harder now that it's over/ now that the cuffs are off" display Adams' talent for melding brutal realism with a lithe, romantic melody.
Perhaps the most beautiful and perplexingly, morbid song on the album, "SYLVIA PLATH," has Adams wishing for his own suicidal feminist poet to the backdrop of gentle piano and violin strains. We hear Adams imagining a perfect getaway with a Plathian incarnation in lines such as "Maybe she'd take me to France/ maybe to Spain she'd ask me to dance/ in a mansion on the top of a hill/ she'd ash on the carpet/ and slip me a pill/ then she'd get me pretty loaded on gin.how I wish I had a Sylvia Plath."
While the variety of emotion is pretty slim, Adams is able to maintain his trademark pathos with an ebb and flow which rarely becomes tiresome. He doesn't tread new ground content wise, but delves into the complicated workings of human interactions at their worst and unearths the lessons they teach in retrospect with a wistful eye.
"La Cienega Just Smiled" articulates the confusion and perpetual throb of pining over a seemingly unattainable girl. The lulling guitar and interwoven drooping piano background enhances the poignancy of the lyrics "How'd I end up feeling so bad/ for such a little girl/ and I hold you close in the back of my mind/ feels so good but damn it makes me hurt."
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At around 70 minutes, Gold is best either as a close, intimate listen or a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. But its greatest comfort lies in the fact that no matter how bad you're love life may be, most likely Adams has been there - and survived to sing about it.