As pathetic pleas to an ex- go, Ryan Adams’s line ‘Take me out, fuck me up, steal my records, screw all my friends behind my back’ mid-way through Heartbreaker takes some beating.
Recorded following the dissolution of his band Whiskeytown – and a break-up with his long-standing girlfriend, obviously – Heartbreaker announced the arrival of a singular talent; a country music singer raised on punk and metal who was never afraid to let his dark side show. Although he would save the title for a brace of 2003 EPs, Heartbreaker is largely – the rollicking Dylan-circa-’65 tribute To Be Young (Is To be Sad, Is To Be High) aside – Adams in ‘love is hell’ mode, a tear-stained, aching collection best ‘enjoyed’ with the curtains drawn and a bottle of red wine close to hand.
A second disc of demos and out-takes here suggests that Adams rather enjoyed himself during the two-week recording session though, with a jokey cover of Morrissey’s Hairdresser On Fire and a thrashing Punk Jam among the previously unreleased treats. The gorgeous War Horse might have made a fine addition to the original release, but Heartbreaker remains a beautifully formed debut from an artist who is rarely less than compelling.