While not many on this side of the pond have noticed, Lloyd Cole, that smart, blackly humorous self-deprecating Scottish songwriter has been assembling a nice catalog, chock-full of fine recordings. Luckily for us, his association with One Little Indian makes provisions for American releases for those who do understand that Cole is one of the most unique, tender, witty and biting songwriters out there, and he also writes a hell of a love song. Anti Depressant is the great double edge in Cole’s catalog. In Cole’s thinking, while it’s true that an anti-depressant can make you feel better, the simple fact that you need one makes clear the appearance of depression. Many of these songs have that double edge in them. Cole produced this set and plays almost everything here with help from a few guests, most notably Jill Sobule, former Commotions bandmate Neil Clark on slide guitar, with string arrangements by David Trenholm from King Radio. Anti Depressant is an interesting mirror image to 2003’s dark and moody Music in a Foreign Language. These songs are about mid-life, its traps, compromises, disappointments, and the hidden delights found in aging. Desire is not absent in these songs, it’s merely channeled differently, and new ones pop up in the gaps where others have either been realized or forgotten. Beginning with the jaunty pop of “The Young Idealists,” Cole examines his youth thinking the world was his and his friends. That idealism may not have been wrong, but it was certainly naive. Then he reports quite honestly about trading in futures as part of the neo-con economic dream and its saturation in rampant materialism. The acceptance of that folly is well-documented here. It’s an unromantic look back, and an unflinching acceptance of the present. It’s utterly journalistic, yet funny and sad too. “Woman in a Bar,” is classic Cole albeit on a piano rather than a guitar. Strings float and underscore the sung lines, contemplating sexual play, infidelity, working life, the desire for contact after children have gone to bed, grown-up monogamous life, being in a bar alone after it all. He ends this sardonic tale with “No longer angry, no longer young, no longer/driven to distraction/Not even by Scarlett Johanssen/A few moving parts need to be replaced/the engine starts/but only on Tuesday…” Melancholy yes, but even more self-accepting and delightfully self-deprecating. This is Cole at his best, sophisticated but not cryptic. Well-versed in folk, pop, rock and cabaret styles, his quips are dramatic, but wonderfully dry. But when he needs to turn all this over in favor of a straight-up love song, he does it better than almost anyone: check “New York City Sunshine,” for all his wandering among “the junkies and the millionaires,” there is an unspoiled, wide-eyed look into the face of his Other. He acknowledges his own poverty of spirit, his shallowness, and his inability to impress as being the best he can do because it’s what’s real. The strings swoop and wind, float and hover all through Cole’s gorgeous melody. Cole’s engaging most of the instruments on his own makes for a solid, well-paced stroll through his latest batch of concerns. It’s a yuppies record, but this yuppy laughs at the contradictions in his life because he’s accepted them. Wit doesn’t rock, it rolls, and generously, through an intimate look at not only aging, but at the gracefulness of it all. Solid, delightful, and moving.
Publication date: 11/10/06