Heartache, for those ensnared in its unrelenting grip, is the most debilitating curse the universe can dream up. For the artist though, it can prove a double-edged sword, a strange kind of poisoned chalice that — though it cripples — provides fertile ground for artistic inspiration. From Michelangelo’s Pieta to Sufjan Stevens' ‘Carrie & Lowell’, pain has inspired its fair share of artistic treasures.
On ‘Prisoner’, Ryan Adams' 16th album, Adams mines the depths of his failed marriage with actress Mandy Moore to produce a series of lovelorn tracks forged from the embers of doomed romance. Its soundscapes are haunted by the spectre of Moore, who stalks the landscape of Adams' mind. It’s a landscape replete with desolate and apocalyptic imagery, where storms rage and phantoms howl as the clock ticks down to midnight, with Adams all-the-while imprisoned in a fortress crafted from his own doubt and insecurity.
Instrumentally the album shares much in common with ‘1989’, from the sweet Smithsian jangle of the title track to the nostalgic Americana of ‘Outbound Train’. Stylistically the first half of the LP is the strongest but -rather like the imploding love that Prisoner chronicles — the album tails off after a strong start. Lyrically though, and as a view into Adams’ psychopathology, ‘Prisoner’ is nothing short of fascinating.
Words: Gabriel Farishta
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