July 28, 2019
(Ear Music)An intellectual titan compared with his frivolous new romantic contemporaries, Lloyd Cole first came to prominence in the mid-80s as frontman of the Commotions, their winning blend of jangling guitars and grownup literary allusions finding an audience eager for something with more depth than Howard Jones could offer. Since the Commotions disbanded in 1989, Cole’s solo career has been pleasingly varied, oscillating between adventures in ambient electronica (most notably 2001’s Plastic Wood and his 2013 collaboration with Hans-Joachim Roedelius) and more standard singer-songwriter fare. Guesswork finds him combining the two strands, with conventional song structures fleshed out by synths.
Lloyd Cole: Guesswork review – a game of two halves
Recent single Violins is excellent and couldn’t sound more 1980s if it was wearing shoulder pads, coming across like the Pet Shop Boys remixing Radio Gaga, albeit with more troubling lyrics: “The missile leaves the drone/ Flies through the window pane/ The mother and child join the wall of flame.” More eyebrow-raising are the words to Night Sweats, wherein Cole incongruously admits that he is a “complicated motherfucker”. But while Guesswork starts promisingly, with the honourable exception of the sparkling Moments and Whatnot the second half of this front-loaded album is a little underwhelming, its songs needlessly extended when a more succinct execution might have worked better.
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