Music

Lloyd Cole Returns with a Tiny Twist on 'Guesswork'

Photo courtesy of High Road Touring

Lloyd Cole goes electropop on his latest album Guesswork, and it offers a new palette of sounds that deepen the impact of his wordy ramblings.

Guesswork
Lloyd Cole

EARMUSIC

26 July 2019

Lloyd Cole is not a household name by any stretch. He's a small star, a niche artist. He hits only certain spots for his listeners, but he hits them with expertise. That niche, for most of his career at least, has been guitar-led indie rock bursting at the seams with extended metaphors, literary references, and sardonic humor. He's the type of writer who will make allusions to both Cosmopolitan magazine and Bob Dylan in a single song that ends with these lyrics: "Strikes me that the moral of this song is there never has been one."

Although smarts and sass are what he's known for, Cole also occasionally plays with instrumental electronic compositions as well, even once working directly with Hans-Joachim Roedelius of the legendary Cluster. Cole's newest album, Guesswork, finds him trying to fuse his typical indie rock bent with his electronic adventures. It's fresh ground for Cole. Occasionally, it expands the impact. Otherwise, it's more of the same with a different package.

Cole is an antique at this point. His debut, Lloyd Cole and the Commotion's Rattlesnakes came out in 1984, a veritable eon ago, at least considering how disposable music seems to be these days. Contrary to its age though, Rattlesnakes, still stands up as a solid release, arguably the strongest of a solid career. It's his cornerstone, his foundation, as from there to now, it's all quite similar. He's a singer-songwriter skilled in lyrical snark backed by windy riffs and concrete choruses.

Cole wanted to make an electronic pop record, and that is just what he did. Choosing Chris Hughes, the producer of Tear For Fears Songs From Big Chair, and Olaf Opal, the mixer behind Notwist's beautiful Neon Golden, sure helped a bit I'm sure. It works too. On slower songs like "The Over Under", "Remains", and "The Afterlife", we see the most rewarding aspects of the project: a new palette of sounds that deepen the impact of his wordy ramblings.

The depth and the crawl a synthesizer can muster works here. On faster songs like "Night Sweats" and "Violins", we see Cole shining the same as he usually does, just with a little more plastic in the background. He's still jabbing us with random lines that waver between acidic pomp and twisted poetry. It's just backed by a keyboard now.

Talking about Guesswork, Cole said, "When I was 27, the concept of the washed-up older guy seemed very entertaining. Now I'm starting to think that old age could be a lot more fun. Because really what have we got to lose?" It's true. Cole has nothing to prove to us, so a little playing around isn't a thing for him. Anyhow, it's just as good as it always was, so what's the matter? I guess it worked.

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