Ryan Adams - Prisoner

Ryan Adams - Prisoner

Adam’s sixteenth studio album ‘Prisoner’, is a compelling memoir of his gut wrenching divorce from Mandy Moore. Mere mortals fall into a routine of heavy drinking and regrettable text messages when burned, Adams however, picked up his guitar and aimed for masterpiece.

What hits you immediately, and remains throughout, is the heartache. Former single ‘Do You Still Love Me’ opens the record with a self-destructive pattern everyone can relate to. The desperate longing to know the unanswerable of where it all fell apart are at the forefront. Couple this with a guitar solo that conjures images of Adams screaming and howling into the night at the loss of his marriage, you have one hell of an opening gambit.

On the tracks ‘Prisoner’, ‘Haunted House’ and Breakdown, there is an unexpected, but welcome move to some classic eighties sounds. ‘Prisoner’ is straight from the world of Cocteau Twins’ ‘Heaven or Las Vegas’. It utilises the airy production with little nodes of guitar psyche to channel his alt-country sound somewhere new. It’s remarkable to tread new ground successfully when, inside the turmoil is leading you to sing ‘Free my heart / Somebody locked it up’.

‘Haunted House’ treads the familiar ground of Springsteen’s melancholic work on ‘The River’ and ‘Atlantic City’ whilst, the production leans on early work from Kate Bush. On ‘Breakdown’, there are moments when the guitars shimmer and swirl with such glory, you’d be forgiven for overlooking Adams’ affirmation ‘my soul is black as coal’

The one chink of hope comes on the dreamy ‘Shiver and Shake’. All the self-reflection and self-loathing gets a dusting down, only lightly, but enough for the defiant declaration ‘if I wait here any longer I’m gonna fade away’ to suggest time is healing.

To compare and contrast 16 albums is almost futile, but, ‘Prisoner’ is of such consistently high quality it has to be mentioned in the same bracket as 2003’s ‘Rock n Roll’.  The sense of do or die comes shining through on ‘Prisoner’, and thus, we live you with apt quote from Byron:

“If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad”