It’s been 2 years since the ex-Whiskeytown maestro Ryan Adams last released a record, in the form of a full length ungraciously received Taylor Swift cover, so it will, no doubt, grant peace of mind to many of Adams’ fans to receive the news that Prisoner is an original entity in it’s entirety. Penned from the ink of the bitter heartbreak as a result of his marriage breakdown with Mandy Moore, this record presents a very much raw and uncut series of the varying degrees of his inner turmoil and loss, experienced in the mind of a humiliated and heartbroken man.
The 12 act tragedy is opened by the painfully real Do you still love me?, as Adams desperately cries out amidst the jarring sound of six distorted strings, ‘Is my heart blind and our love so strange.’ And while this is the obvious choice for the opening track, the remainder of the record arrangement regretfully abides in the shadows as a result. Ryan Adams does, however, pull in some impressive influences to intertwine with his style, with The Edge inspired guitar and Bono tinged vocals of Doomsday, and the wonderfully written Outbound Train, which is very much embellished with the sound of Bryan Adams – a likeness which the artist proudly wears as a badge of honour.
The heart wrenching, eerily haunting Breakdown centres on Adams’ inability to internalise the hurt, as he centres in on the pain he can’t hide. The painful Haunted House, encapsulates the depressive words of a broken man caught in an unexpected pergutory, as he hopelessly utters, ‘I don’t wanna wait in this haunted house anymore’ – a feeling also beautifully caught in the title track, as Adams’ unashamedly admits ‘I am a prisoner for your love.’ The album fades out into ‘We disappear, we fade away,’ leading the listener down a dark path of a haunting constant beat underwritten by fuzz distortion, and steeped in assonance – the perfect way to exit an affecting, highly relatable journey through the torrid torment of unbearable loss.
The production of Prisoner is unarguably inoffensive and prefers to take the back seat in favour of the tormented language of lost love, but those words undeniably strike through the temples of every individual who has experienced ‘that’ breakup – the one that will never let up. It’s an album with a relatively unvaried tempo, and it will never be the cornerstone of the Ryan Adams catalogue, but it is an album that this man needed to compose, and it’s an album that many people will need to hear.